Section: News

Philander Chase Corporation develops green cemetery

Philander Chase Corporation develops green cemetery

Chair of the Philander Chase Corporation's Board of Directors looks out over the Tomahawk Hollow Golf Course

By Henri Gendreau

Peter White ’66, looking across a vast tract of land that lies northeast of downtown Gambier, described it as “the original prairie.”
This is the rolling grassland of Tomahawk Hollow Golf Course, now the future site of a nature preserve cemetery founded by the Philander Chase Corporation (PCC). White chairs the PCC’s Board of Directors.

On March 6, the College Township Zoning Board of Appeals approved the PCC’s plans to turn the land, which will be called the Kokosing Nature Preserve, into a environmentally-friendly cemetery.

Additionally, the PCC will maintain a nine-hole golf course on the property, which they plan to open this spring. Construction on the cemetery will begin in May or June, according to PCC Managing Director Lisa Schott.

“Much of the energy of the College in a more spiritual, psychological light depends on the rural environment,” White said. And maintaining that rural character is exactly what the Kokosing Nature Preserve intends to do.

Dust Thou Art

Green burial, a form of internment that shuns the use of embalming and elaborate caskets and vaults, is growing in popularity, according to White.
He says he and others prefer natural burial, “which, of course, is how people have been buried forever excepting the last 150 or so years.”

“Now it’s kind of in vogue,” said Eric Holdener, assistant professor of physics and scientific computing, who is considering purchasing a plot in the cemetery. “It all stems from my youth and my love of rocks and fossils,” Holdener said. “I’d been to funerals as a kid and I knew what they looked like and I didn’t like that look. I wanted to become a fossil.”
White said green burial practices have “a very ecologically beneficial effect, in that the way that many people are buried today creates quite a strain on the environment.”

Instead, the cemetery will allow shrouds or biodegradable caskets for burial, and will also accept the interring or dispersal of cremations.

The PCC is working with the Green Burial Council so that its “on track to receive their three-leaf rating as a ‘conservation burial ground’ at the approximate time we are ready to begin selling plots,” which should be in late 2015, Schott said.

“When you die, why should you use up a lot of energy in your final act?” said Stephen Christy ’71, the landscape architect for the project. “Why don’t you do what God told us to do: dust to dust.”

Coming Into Being

In August of last year, the PCC purchased the 51.3 acres on Quarry Chapel Road, which includes three homes, a clubhouse and a storage barn, for $450,000 from longtime owners Robert and Robin Hren.

Tomahawk was not the only choice the PCC was looking at for the possibility of building a green cemetery. But when a farm that was being considered went off the market, the PCC jumped at the opportunity to preserve the Tomahawk land.

“It’s obviously a piece of property, from the standpoint of aesthetics, one would not want to see developed in a random kind of way,” White said.
But the Tomahawk property presented its own set of development issues. “It struck me that to take a local landmark like that and completely remove it from circulation as a golf course would kind of alter people’s perceptions of the landscape,” Christy said. “I just remember being out there and looking at the place, and a foursome of old ladies said, ‘You’re not going to tear all this apart are you?’” he recalled. Christy said that with the help and research of Schott, he recommended the PCC maintain the golf course in part.

“Stephen [Christy] really made us aware that Tomahawk as a golf course is a very important place to members of the community,” White said. “We ultimately decided the most important thing was to honor the community’s wishes that we not eliminate people playing golf at Tomahawk.”

The PCC has leased the course to Rob Heagren, who said the newly christened Deer Hollow Golf Course is set to open in the second week in April, and will promise good times.
“We’re going to make it fun again,” he said.

And Unto Dust Shalt Thou Return

In the end, White said the project serves a vital role in discussions of death and dying.

“I think it’s very important for all of us, and for the College also, to be dealing with the question of death and what that means for our lives, what happens to us when we die and after we die,” he said. “And I feel like there is something important to be gained simply by that.”

“This sort of is a strange aspect of it, but everybody dies,” Christy said. “What are you going to do with yourself when you die? How do you want to leave the world?”


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