A Push to Move the Golf Course Atop a Native American ‘Stonehenge’

NEWARK, Ohio — The third gap right here at the Moundbuilders Country Club is a difficult par four: The inexperienced is protected by a six-foot-high mound that just about utterly encircles the gap and requires a deft chip shot to clear in case your strategy shot goes awry.

“It’s a blind shot,” stated Randol Mitchell, the membership’s head golf skilled, after driving his ball a good chunk of the gap’s 435 yards. “You have to watch out for those mounds.”

The topography of the course is constructed round the mounds, which have been prescribed by the cosmology of the Native Americans who created them roughly 2,000 years in the past as a means to measure the motion of the solar and the moon by means of the heavens.

But now the membership, which has leased the land for greater than a century, is being requested to relocate in order that the mounds may be correctly embraced as an archaeological treasure, a transfer membership members perceive — they’ve preserved the mounds for generations — however one which they are saying shall be troublesome for them to undertake until representatives of the state kick up the ante for the price of making a new golf venue.

“On many golf courses, water, woods and sand create natural challenges,” David Kratoville, the president of the club’s board of trustees, said. “Here, it’s the mounds.”

In 1892, Licking County and the City of Newark, about 40 miles east of Columbus, allowed the state to use the land as an encampment for the Ohio National Guard. But after the camp closed, they reclaimed it and leased it to the club in 1910. A noted golf architect, Thomas Bendelow, who designed America’s first 18-hole public golf course, Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx, laid out a course that by 1911 had turned the ancient moon markers into errant shot adversaries.

The owner of the property today is the Ohio History Connection, a statewide nonprofit organization that contracts with the state to oversee more than 50 historic sites. The nonprofit has leased the property to the club since acquiring it in 1933 and hosts four open houses at the club each year, which before the pandemic included guided tours of the mounds. The property is also open to the public on Mondays or when the weather is unsuitable for golf. The rest of the year, visitors must view the mounds from an elevated platform near the parking area.

The History Connection would like to convert the site into a public park and submit it for recognition as a World Heritage site, as a place of “outstanding value to humanity,” alongside others, like the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon.

“We feel an obligation on behalf of Ohio taxpayers to responsibly protect and interpret the site’s historic value,” Burt Logan, the History Connection’s executive director and chief executive, said. “And we hope we’ll finally be able to do that soon.”

But without full public access to the site, federal officials have said a World Heritage nomination would be impossible.

The Moundbuilders’ lease runs through 2078. And though Kratoville said the club was willing to move, the History Connection and the club were millions of dollars apart. In 2018, the History Connection took the club to court in a bid to acquire the lease via eminent domain.

If the club does move, Kratoville said he was unsure whether the Moundbuilders Country Club would keep its name. But it would certainly not try to recreate the mounds, he said.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “It would be a different course.”

The Supreme Court is only tasked with deciding the eminent domain issue. If the History Connection is found to have the right to take over the lease, compensation would be hashed out at a later date in a lower court — an amount Murry said would ultimately likely fall somewhere between the two appraisals.

Glenna Wallace, the first female chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, who considers the moundbuilders her ancestors, said the dispute goes beyond monetary value. World Heritage recognition for the earthworks — and full public access — would play a crucial role in reframing the way visitors think about Native Americans, she said.

“The sophistication required to create this shows my ancestors weren’t savages,” she said. “This needs to be open to people every single day of the week, every single day of the year.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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