KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- People who visit the Quindaro Cemetery are upset after they say they found headstones moved and tire tracks on top of graves.
They say crews working for the convenience store doing pipeline maintenance near the cemetery caused the damage.
"This whole slope was nothing but a grave, and they've run a Caterpillar through here. You can see the track," said Anthony Hope, president of Concerned Citizens of Old Quindaro.
Hope, as well as other residents with ancestors buried at the Quindaro Cemetery, are heartbroken.
He said his ancestors' gravesites became the pathway for heavy machinery run by Phillips 66. He said they knocked over head stones, cut down woods where people are buried and made pathways that didn't exist.
Rich Johnson, a spokesman for Phillips 66, said their activities "caused no damage to gravesites in the Quindaro Cemetery."
The Wyandotte County Parks Department maintains the cemetery. Johnson said they've been working with the county since July.
He wrote in a statement to FOX4: "We have easement agreements to use the road that runs through the cemetery property, and that road is the only way to safely access our worksite due to the steep hills in the area."
Hope said there are several alternative routes that don't require crews to drive over the marked and unmarked graves of his ancestors.
"Desecrating these human beings' place of peace in this manner when there were options is the greatest insult ever," Janice Witt said with tears in her eyes.
She said it breaks her heart because the 6-acre cemetery overlooks the Missouri River, where slaves fought their way to Quindaro and a free life.
Johnson said they've placed yellow flags to make the grave markers more visible and had spotters in place to make sure equipment didn't leave the road or damage the cemetery.
"We feel badly that our activities upset some members of the community, and we would welcome an opportunity to talk to them about it," Johnson wrote. "Additionally, we plan to speak with community representatives to identify how we might help preserve the rich history of the Quindaro Cemetery and Ruins area."
While Witt wants respect for her ancestors, Hope said he wants to know this will never happen again.