The Ridges–Cemeteries Nature Walk
eBird Bar Charts by Season
The Ridges Trails
When Ohio University purchased the Ridges in 1988, the cemeteries became little, orphaned islands of state property in a sea of OU land. Fortunately, the University chose to maintain them as a courtesy to the State. From then on, OU crews mowed the open sections and meticulously trimmed around all stones in those areas. It did not, however, have the manpower to correct preexisting problems.
Disrepair apparently led to superstition and disrespect. By the late 20th century, there were stories that the cemeteries were haunted. The Fox Family Channel actually featured “The Ghosts of Athens” — notably in those cemeteries — in its program “World’s Scariest Places” and OU student groups included them in Halloween tours.
By 2000 the condition of the cemeteries and the disrespect to which they were being subjected finally led people from the local Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services (317) Board and the Ohio Department of Mental Health to create a multi-entity, ad hoc, Ridges Cemeteries Committee to address the problem. In subsequent years, the Committee was able to mobilize in-kind and monetary support from an array of public and private entities and individuals in the region. These included the 317 Board, Americorps, Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, the Arnold Air Society, The City of Athens, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Gathering Place, Hocking College, the Hocking Correctional Facility, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the O’Bleness Foundation, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio University and the Outback Conservation Corps. By 2006, with their support, the cemeteries were largely restored, the old pond was rebuilt and a Ridges Cemeteries Nature Walk, linking the Tower Cemetery with the newer ones, had been built. In 2006, Michael Hogan, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Healthy arranged for $5,000 annually to be channeled in perpetuity to continue the restoration of the cemeteries and to maintain the Nature Walk and Nagy Pond.
The Peter E. Nagy Memorial Pond – named after an Athens native and OU student whose life was cut short as a result of mental illness — and the Nature Walk are designed to encourage visitors to see the cemeteries and surrounding countryside not as haunted grounds but as places of contemplative beauty.
From Ridges Cemeteries Nature Walk webpage