This summer, Kenyon gained new ground— about 40 acres of it. The College purchased Walker Pond, located northwest of Gambier, and its surrounding area from Hal Walker ’57 at a cost of $342,000.
Associate Professor of Biology Andrew Kerkhoff said the Walker Farm, which includes the pond, was purchased by the Philander Chase Conservancy, a subsidiary organization of the College that aims to maintain the rural character of the region surrounding Gambier.
The land has a diverse ecosystem, with animals ranging from typical pond-dwelling species such as frogs, to land-dwelling species like deer and raccoons, according to the article “On Walker Pond,” published Aug 30 on the College’s website. The research opportunities offered by the pond are as numerous as they are unique. Director of Green Initiatives David Heithaus said students with majors in biology, environmental studies, chemistry and even the humanities could study at the pond at some point during their Kenyon careers.
“The pond provides a shallow, forested, freshwater ecosystem unlike anything we have at the BFEC [Brown Family Environmental Center],” Heithaus said.
The pond and the surrounding land were part of the original 8,000 acres purchased by Philander Chase before the founding of Kenyon in the 1820s. The pond’s most recent owner was Kenyon alumnus Walker ’57, a descendent of Holmes. Heithaus said Walker decided to sell the property because “they were interested in downsizing their maintenance requirements, and felt the College would be good stewards and neighbors.”
Student research at the pond is expected to begin this year, a prospect that exites Liza Martin ’20, who has an interest in pursuing environmental studies.
“I’m super excited to have access to the Walker Pond because it will completely diversify the pool of species from which I am able to research,” Martin said. “Wetland ecosystems are a particular interest for me, so I will definitely make use of the pond.”
Martin said the purchase of the land will be particularly beneficial consideringthe College’s increased investment in the environmental studies department. With plans in the works to connect existing BFEC public hiking trails to the pond, the current possibilities seem endless.
“The property was purchased primarily to protect its natural character,” Heithaus said. “We would like to share this new resource as widely as possible in the context of safe access and being good neighbors.”