GAMBIER, Ohio — Kokosing Nature Preserve, Kenyon College’s natural burial cemetery, has been officially verified as a conservation burial ground by the Green Burial Council — the highest rating the council offers for natural burial cemeteries.
The certification is an official recognition of the preserve’s sustainable practices and efforts to offer people environmentally friendly burial options.
“To receive the highest level of certification, following a rigorous application process, affirms that Kokosing Nature Preserve offers families the most environmentally sound burial,” said Lisa Schott, managing director of the Philander Chase Conservancy, the nonprofit land trust associated with Kenyon that created the preserve. “We will be able to attract people who wish to make their burial a true final gift to the planet.”
“This certification shows we are truly operating at the highest standards as established by the Green Burial Council,” added Amy Henricksen, steward of Kokosing Nature Preserve.
The 23-acre Kokosing Nature Preserve is one of only five certified green burial cemeteries in Ohio, and one of only three certified as a conservation burial ground. Burials at the site are intended to have minimal environmental impact and use eco-friendly caskets, shrouds and urns. Graves are marked with flat, natural stones instead of the polished headstones used in many cemeteries.
To achieve its certification as a conservation burial ground, Kokosing Nature Preserve had to meet a rigorous list of requirements. The preserve had to guarantee the long-term stewardship of its burial ground through a deed restriction or a conservation easement, limiting substantive changes to the operational or conservation policies governing the cemetery. Additionally, the Green Burial Council required an ecological assessment of existing geology, soils and topography as well as existing and potential vegetation and wildlife and a plan for ongoing management of invasive species on the property.
The preserve also needed to have an endowment fund to ensure the long-term maintenance of the property. It fulfilled the fund requirement with the help of gifts from Kelly and Robert Lyles, who are 1999 graduates of Kenyon.
“It’s a good thing anytime anyone sets aside land to promote environmental aims. What’s exciting about this project is that it’s unique,” said Kate Kalanick, executive director of the Green Burial Council, noting the partnership Kokosing Nature Preserve enjoys with the College. “It’s important to get people at a younger age to think about the footprint that they can leave. So often people wait to consider these things until the time in their own lives when they are facing these decisions.”
Hundreds of hours of restoration went into the preserve, which was created in 2013 after the Philander Chase Conservancy purchased the former Tomahawk Golf Course, a 51-acre course near Kenyon’s campus. Roughly half the property was converted to the natural burial cemetery, and the site was restored to its natural state with the planting of native trees, prairie grasses and wildflowers. Visitors can access the preserve using a central path that is meant to echo the experience of walking down Kenyon’s iconic Middle Path. In addition to this central gravel path, there also are mowed grass walking paths throughout the preserve.
“Thanks to a talented team that was devoted to our vision, and the dedication of Kokosing Nature Preserve Steward Amy Henricksen, we’ve been able to transform a golf course into a beautiful nature preserve that is protected in perpetuity and offers the only conservation burial ground in central Ohio,” Schott said.
The preserve, located at 10620 Quarry Chapel Road in Gambier, offers a park-like setting for all community members to enjoy. Henricksen invites people to explore the space and its natural beauty. For more information, call Henricksen at 740-427-5040.