A public, nature preserve cemetery and a nine-hole golf course will be developed on land that has long been home to the Tomahawk Golf Course in Knox County.
The Philander Chase Corporation, a nonprofit land trust associated with Kenyon College, purchased the 51-acre golf course in 2013 with the intention of forever preserving the land as green space. Converting the property into a nature preserve for natural burials – to be known as the Kokosing Nature Preserve – protects the land and meets the demand of families interested in an environmentally friendly final resting place. The nine-hole golf course preserves a family-friendly recreation tradition in the area and will be leased to a private operator.
An application for conditional use as a nature preserve cemetery was approved for the property at 10608 Quarry Chapel Rd. by the College Township Zoning Board of Appeals on March 6th.
“Our primary goal in purchasing the property was to protect it from development,” said Lisa Schott, managing director of the land trust. “It is a scenic property with beautiful views, and we did not want it subdivided and sold as separate parcels.”
The goal of the Philander Chase Corporation is to preserve the agricultural character and green space in Knox County, generally surrounding Kenyon College. Through the use of agricultural and conservation easements, the land trust has helped preserve about 5,000 acres since its founding in 2000. Establishing a nature preserve cemetery will provide revenue for the ongoing work of the land trust.
Natural, or green, burials are a growing trend but hearken back to a centuries-old tradition. The practice is in the spirit of the Biblical admonition, "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." In a green burial, the deceased are not embalmed and caskets are not placed inside underground concrete vaults. Bodies are placed in shrouds or biodegradable caskets, typically wooden or made of wicker. Natural resources are conserved, carbon emissions significantly reduced, and the use of toxic chemicals eliminated.
About 30 acres of the property will be restored to a more natural state, with native prairie grasses and plantings. Graves will be distinguished by unobtrusive markers. Families can expect to plant appropriate flowers, shrubs and trees at grave sites. Public access to the nature preserve and grave sites will be along gravel roadways and footpaths. The new cemetery will also permit the burial or scattering of cremation ashes.
The public will have access to the park setting of the Kokosing Nature Preserve, and natural burial sites will be available for purchase by the public.
The land trust, Schott said, does not take issue with or criticize other burial practices but plans to provide an opportunity for burials with low environmental impact in an appealing, natural setting.
The national, nonprofit Green Burial Council has certified 38 cemeteries in the United States, using a three-level system based on the commitment of the cemetery and the use of ecologically sustainable methods. The local land trust is seeking certification for a conservation burial ground – the highest level awarded by the Green Burial Council. Conservation burial grounds ban the use of toxic chemicals and underground vaults, require energy conservation and organic burial containers, and mandate the use of native plants and materials on the grounds. Long-term stewardship of the land and conservation easements are also required.
The new cemetery will be the first nature preserve cemetery in central Ohio and seeks to be the fourth in the state approved by the Green Burial Council and the third with the highest level of approval.
The land trust, Schott said, believes the nature preserve cemetery gives the community the benefit of a natural choice for burial in a tranquil setting that enhances that Knox County environment.