Planning meeting Saturday allows officials to get views of state park patrons | State looks to add Sappington Negro Cemetery to park system

Monday, April 9, 2012
Toni Blackwood of Kansas City and Arrow Rock discusses plans for the Sappington Cemetery Historic Site with Jim Rehard of Missouri State Parks during a park planning session Saturday, April 7, at the Arrow Rock State Historic Site Visitor's Center. The planning process gathers the views of park patrons to help shape the future of state parks. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

The sign at the entrance to the Arrow Rock Historic Site Visitors' Center meeting room read: "We want your input."

Missouri Parks Depart-ment officials were available for the second time in a little more than a year to talk to area residents about what they hope to see in future state park development.

The parks under discussion Saturday, April 7, were the Arrow Rock State Historic Site, Boonslick State Historic Site and Sappington Cemetery State Historic Site.

Map provided by Missouri Parks Department.

One suggestion several patrons mentioned at the March 2011 conceptual plan meeting in Arrow Rock was for the state to take over and improve the Sappington Negro Cemetery, which is on Route AA not far from the Sappington Cemetery site.

Implementing that suggestion is in the works, and Jim Rehard, supervisor of Missouri Parks Department's Northern Missouri Historic District, gave an update on progress toward that goal.

"It's actually in pretty good shape right now thanks to Whitney Kerr," Rehard said. "He has done a terrific job helping us and helping the community."

An interpretive sign briefly explains the history of Sappington Negro Cemetery on Route AA in Saline County. The state parks department is in the process of acquiring the cemetery. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

Rehard credited Kerr and Kerr's wife, Day, with their help tending the cemetery, keeping it fenced and mowed. He said they also provided the current interpretive sign.

Rehard also credited Teresa Habernal for helping make the project possible by working on legal issues with conveying the land to the state.

Day Kerr also credited Harbernal with helping maintain the site.

Kerr said she and her husband plan to work with the state to provide access to land near the site that will be needed as the state develops the site.

Rehard said if all goes as planned, the state would take over mowing and other maintenance work, would find an appropriate pulloff from Route AA and develop parking at the site.

Grave markers in the Sappington Negro Cemetery tend to be of simpler design than the ornate stonework found in the nearby Sappington Cemetery. As an interpretive marker at the cemetery notes, though, blacks helped build Arrow Rock and played important roles in the county's history. The state is in the process of acquiring Sappington Negro Cemetery to include it in the area park system. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

"It'll be very much like what we do at Sappington Cemetery," he said.

He noted the Sappington Negro Cemetery would be a different experience for visitors. Unlike the Sappington Cemetery, with its ornate grave markers, the black cemetery is, like many from the 19th and early 20th centuries, filled with modest markers and many unmarked graves.

He said incorporating the cemetery into the park system would be appropriate to help recognize the role blacks played in the area's history and to complement efforts by the Friends of Arrow Rock to keep that history alive.

"Blacks built Arrow Rock," he said. "They were the majority population until the 1930s."

Other projects that are under consideration based on public input include:

--J. Huston Tavern improvements, including the possibility of restoration work and the addition of Wi-Fi service.

--Relocation of the Arrow Rock Historic Site shop to property west of Highway 41.

--Sell the 1861 Ancell House.

--Restore the 1873 stone jail.

--Remove and relocate the basic campground. The 12 existing basic camp sites will be relocated to the field across the road and to the southeast of the existing site.

--Add a new shower house.

--Convert the old campground to a day-use area.

--Add trail connections.

--Add an amphitheater to be used for programs.

Contact Eric Crump at

Related stories:
Public input begins process to shape future of three area state historic sites
State of parks discussed during weekend public forums

Site plans:
Arrow Rock State Historic Site:
Sappington Cemetery:
Boonslick State Historic Site:

Site plan public comments:

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  • We enjoy camping at Arrow Rock and Van Meter. I am excited to read that an amphitheater may go in. At at least one state park I have camped at had one and they put on kids shows in the evenings that provide education as well as entertainment. I can't wait!

    -- Posted by meagain on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 3:36 PM
  • Great photo of the grave stones Eric! One of the stones in the photo is that of my Great Great Grandfather Robert Falls, the other is his first wife's stone.

    -- Posted by dhok on Tue, Apr 10, 2012, at 3:31 PM
    Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
    Thank you!
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