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Trial postponed in financial dispute over Ohio ancient earthworks deemed World Heritage site

A groundskeeper mows near the flat-topped mound that is part of the 50-acre octagon at Moundbuilders Country Club at the Octagon Earthworks in Newark, Ohio, July 30, 2019. A trial was slated to begin Tuesday, May 28, 2024, to determine how much the historical society must pay for the ancient ceremonial and burial earthworks, which is among eight ancient areas in the Hopewell Earthworks system named a World Heritage Site last year. (Doral Chenoweth III/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

COLUMBUS — A trial to determine how much Ohio’s historical society must pay to restore public access to a set of ancient ceremonial earthworks that has been leased for over a century to a country club has been rescheduled for July 15.

The 2,000-year-old Octagon Earthworks near Newark in central Ohio are part of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks network named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in September. Native Americans constructed the earthworks, including eight long earthen walls, that correspond to lunar movements.

A proceeding in Licking County Common Pleas Court, originally slated to begin Tuesday, will determine the value of the long-term lease on the land held by Moundbuilders Country Club, where golfers play alongside the mounds. Judge David Branstool reset the date Tuesday.

It’s the Ohio History Connection’s last step to gaining control of all eight of the ancient areas included in the World Heritage Site, which stretch across central and southeastern Ohio. The group has called them “part cathedral, part cemetery and part astronomical observatory.”

Ohio History Connection won an Ohio Supreme Court decision allowing it to reclaim the lease, but trial delays ensued as the country club challenged the price-setting process.

The historical society has put the value of the site at about $2 million, while the country club is seeking a much higher price.

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