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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Some South Dallas residents want the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to tread carefully when construction starts on the Southern Gateway Project.

The concern is for a historic cemetery tucked up against Interstate-35 E, just south of Illinois in Oak Cliff.

McAdam’s Cemetery is named for one of its residents – Nathaniel McAdams, one of the earliest Dallas County sheriffs and county commissioners.

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The cemetery was dedicated in 1892 – 123 years ago. The last burials happened in the early 20th century. Only a handful of stone markets stand today.

Walking among the headstones and vines, Alicia Quintans wonders how many graves are underfoot.

“It’s amazing that it is still here, after all this growth and to the south. All the development, and this little plot of land is still here,” said Quintans.

The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League is concerned about the cemetery’s future.

The half-acre site is just a stone’s throw from the highway, where TxDOT is planning to overhaul the road and add reversible managed toll lanes in the middle.

“I hope the access stays [to the cemetery], and that people are able to go visit the site,” said Michael Amonett, a past president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League.

McAdam’s Cemetery is a designated Historic Texas Cemetery, but Amonett says it is not clear what protection that brings.

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

At a recent TxDOT meeting, Oak Cliff residents said they could not get clear answers on exactly what TxDOT was planning along the site.

“I think mainly what the community is going to be concerned about is historic value. This being left alone for so many years is kind of a good thing in my eyes,” said Quintans.

TxDOT spokesman Tony Hartzel says the McAdam’s Cemetery was identified in the development of the I-35 E Southern Gateway project in 2002.

TxDOT says it will remain within existing right-of-way in that area and does not currently have encroachment on the property. Hartzel tells CBS 11 News, the department has no plans to acquire any cemetery property, and has no intention to develop alternatives that require acquisition of the cemetery property.

The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League is holding a neighborhood cleanup day at the McAdam’s Cemetery on February 28.

While many people have passed by the cemetery for years without noticing, it is now on the neighborhood radar.

Amonett said, “Historic sites give us a soul and a sense of place. They’re important, particularly to an old area like this.”

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Jennifer Lindgren