Family graveyard in Howard safe from road expansion plan

May 31, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

Over the years, the tiny family graveyard of the King and White families on Guilford Road in southern Howard County has seen its borders shrink as an asphalt plant, a business park and a state prison crowded in at its edges.

But in a rare victory of old Howard County over new, the graveyard has staved off a final encroachment.

Faced with well-organized opposition from descendants of the Whites and Kings, county engineers have scrapped plans to seize a 30-foot-wide swath of the 1-acre cemetery for a planned widening of Guilford Road. Family members said the area to be taken could contain the remains of approximately 45 of their ancestors buried in the graveyard since the early 1800s.

"The county's decision is not to ask for any land acquisition from the cemetery," said Ron Lepson, chief of the county's Bureau of Engineering. "The county is sensitive to land that is very sacred to the White and King families."

The decision came as a pleasant surprise to family members, who were discouraged by the county's initial reluctance to consider revamping its plans to widen Guilford Road to five lanes to accommodate truck traffic.

At a March meeting attended by 20 family members from as far away as West Virginia, county officials said it would be costly to widen the road on the other side of the road, in front of the Dorsey Run Business Center.

Widening in that direction would require building a retaining wall and would skew the alignment of the road farther to the south, officials said.

But, after weeks of continued negotiation with the descendants and the Coalition to Preserve Maryland Burial Sites, the county has decided to drop a lane from the widening of the stretch by the cemetery and expand in the direction of the business park, despite the higher cost of that approach.

"We decided it was in the best interest of everybody to see if we could shift the road alignment on the other side," Lepson said.

The graveyard was consecrated in 1829. Among those believed to be buried there is Col. George Washington King, a veteran of the Union Army.

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