A local Champaign County group hopes to restore Ward Cemetery in Kiser Lake State Park.

Champaign County group works to revive forgotten cemetery

Several groups in Champaign County are working to revive a plot of history.

The Champaign County chapter of the Ohio Horseman Council, along with the Champaign County Cemetery Restoration Project, will host a cleanup at Ward Cemetery, located at Kiser Lake State Park, on Saturday, Feb. 17. Interested volunteers can meet at the parking lot near the end of Airport Road. The cleanup will start at 10 a.m.

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Linda Imke, a member of the council, rediscovered the forgotten cemetery while she and her club were riding their horses along the trails they maintain and making new maps last summer.

“We saw a metal post and we thought that metal post was an old marker from our club from years gone by,” she said. “We rode up and we looked over the fence and saw some of the tombstones there.”

With help from the parks district, Imke said she learned the cemetery could date as far back as the 1800s. She said the restoration group had also been looking for the cemetery because there was formerly a church in the area that might also have remains on the property. She said the group was eager to assist in the cleanup.

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The cemetery covers an acre and years of neglect left the area overgrown and unrecognizable. Some of the tombstones have also been damaged.

“That’s a shame that those are broken, but we’re not sure where they all go and we’re hoping to make a place for all of them and maybe find the pieces and put them back together,” she said.

The group plans on working for four or five hours at the cemetery on Saturday to clean up more of the brush and limbs that are still on the ground, Imke said, and hopefully find more tombstones and the foundation of the church. Tools like rakes, chainsaws and weed eaters are what’s most needed to get through the remainder of the overgrowth.

Once the cemetery is cleaned up, Imke hopes the area will be preserved. Plans are already in the works to put up a new fence.

Anyone who wants to volunteer for any amount of time while the group is out there is more than welcome, she said.

“Someone coming to help just for an hour is better than no one coming to help at all,” she said.

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