Ohio History Connection Wins Eminent Domain Fight Over Newark Earthworks

May 13, 2019

A judge in Licking County granted the Ohio History Connection’s petition for full access to a portion of land near Newark.

The group had filed an eminent domain petition for a private golf course on the Hopewell Octagon Earthworks so they could build a public park.

Named the "official prehistoric monument of the state" by the Ohio legislature, the Earthworks were built between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D. by the Hopewell people. Although their purpose is unknown, the Earthworks align with the rising and setting of the moon.

The Moundbuilders Country Club leased the land from the Ohio History Connection since the 1930s, but the OHC was not able to negotiate a deal to acquire the lease.

"In 1913, this ability for eminent domain was placed in the Ohio Revised Code. And this is the first time we have used it in this fashion to acquire a lease," says executive director Burt Logan.

Once before, in the '30s, the OHC filed an eminent domain petition, but it was resolved before it went to trial. Taylor says he doesn't expect this to become a regular tool for the organization.

"We feel that our responsibility to the citizens of Ohio to visit, experience, learn from this site, as well as our obligation to do additional research to understand the site even better, warrants taking this extraordinary, unusual step," he says.

The Newark Earthworks, along with other Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, have been nominated to become a World Heritage site. According to their nomination, "the earth walls of the enclosures are among the largest earthworks in the world that are not fortifications or defensive structures."