Place of Peace

Kokosing Nature Preserve, the College’s natural cemetery, will be officially dedicated Oct. 8.


After hundreds of hours of restoration, the Kokosing Nature Preserve will be dedicated at a ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8. The event is open to the public.

The 23-acre preserve, located at 10620 Quarry Chapel Road in Gambier, is one of only five natural burial grounds in Ohio. Kokosing Nature Preserve is owned by the Philander Chase Corporation (PCC), a nonprofit land trust associated with Kenyon. 

“We’re pleased to provide a place of peace and comfort for grieving families interested in environmentally friendly burial options for their loved ones,” said Kokosing Nature Preserve Steward Amy Henricksen.

In 2013, PCC purchased the Tomahawk Golf Course, a 51-acre course near campus. Roughly half the property remains a leased nine-hole course, renamed Deer Hollow, while the remainder was converted to the natural burial site. Natural, or green, burial refers to a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact through the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds and urns. Graves are designated with flat, natural stone markers instead of polished headstones used in most cemeteries.

“Our primary goal in purchasing the property was to protect it from development,” said Lisa Schott ’80, managing director of PCC. “But the idea of green burial fits ideally with Kenyon’s conservation mission.”

Stephen Christy ’71, landscape architect and PCC trustee, managed the design of Kokosing Nature Preserve. His vision was to combine the picturesque but severe model of traditional cemeteries with the wild quality of nature preserves. “There’s an underlying structure to it, so visitors would have a sense of place, not just a wild area,” he said of the preserve. “It’s somewhat of a parklike feeling.” 

More than 300 trees, including dogwoods, oaks and hickories, replaced the non-native evergreens growing on the property. In addition, native pasture grasses and wildflowers, including black-eyed Susans, asters and purple and yellow coneflowers, have been planted. A central pathway reminiscent of Middle Path has been created, allowing access to the preserve. The site should reach maturity in the next five years, Christy said.

“The land is being restored to its natural state,” said Henricksen, emphasizing that the site is more than a cemetery. “It is a serene area of prairies and woodlands, ideal for walks and time of quiet contemplation,” she said.

Tours of the site will be offered following the dedication.