In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. +
Saint Francis of Assisi is the Catholic Patron Saint of Ecology and the Patron Saint of our little12-plus acre ridge top Ecumenical Retreat, which includes a one acre Landfill Reclamation Project.
By God’s arrangement I was able to research the feasability of this reclamation project for almost a year before we owned the property, learning what we needed to know to accomplish our goals to “renew the Earth” at this uniquely beautiful ridge top site.
Environmental Activism…Taking Personal Responsibility for the Health of the Environment
It is one thing to speak of restoring the abused Earth to health, and quite another to put your back, blood, sweat, tears and wealth into it, to do the hard work of cleaning up someone else’s mess. But, as it is said in Vaishnavism, One who cleans the Temple, cleans their heart!
So in this mood, in all of my property development projects over the decades (on behalf of my family), I have always chosen land and houses that have been so abused that no one else wanted to buy them. Then my family and I have purchased them for way under their intrinsic value, cleaned them up and developed them, greening them and making them safe and pleasant again for human and wildlife habitation.
In all of these projects we have had to deal with problems of illegal dumping and/or other health and safety hazards. So, over the years I have become skilled in dealing with these problems, and more confident in taking on larger projects, leading to our acquisition of the 12+ acres Retreat land that we are now developing.
Integrating My Education and Experience Into Our Ecumenical Ahimsa Retreat Project
Three decades ago, as the Parks and Recreation Department Programer and Instructor of the City of Coquille (which is the County Seat of Coos County, Oregon), I assisted my Supervisor in managing all of the parks, public gardens, recreational facilities and athletic fields under the control of our Department. During that time I also helped my Supervisor to design and begin the development of two city parks, which are still in popular use today.
I also scheduled, established and/or implemented cross-cultural film and book study programs for the Library using the State Inter-Library Loan System, programs for arts and crafts and farmers’ markets, live theatre and music programs, Big Band, Ballroom, Square Dancing and Folk Dancing, Roller Skating and Swimming, Weight Room, Sauna, Tennis Courts, Basketball, Volleyball, Badmitten, Track and Field, little league and football field scheduling, field trips for seniors, shut-ins and disabled youth, the Senior’s Government Hot Meals Program, Red Cross First Aid Training, community facilities use for many civic, religious and private groups, and out-reach programs to the local nursing home and Juvenile Court Minor Offenders Program, the local College’s TMR (Down’s Syndrome) ADL and Recreational Activities Summer Program, and Special Olympics. On Sundays and holidays I conducted ecumenical praise and prayer services playing the piano and leading informal gospel music sing-a-longs at both the Community Building and the local Nursing Home.
Creating and carrying-out many other programs involving the community in promoting the arts and physical culture, and encouraging the ecumenical cooperation of our community’s various religious congregations, I used my formal education and long practical experience in these fields to promote synergism for the mutual benefit of all in the community.
So with my experience in this and related Recreational Activities Therapy for the disabled and Recreational Career Vocational Training for Minor Offenders, I desired to integrate all of this life experience into the development of an ecumenical retreat project.
‘Man proposes and God disposes’
However, we were never able to get the zoning variance approval for a Retreat, to use the wonderful 50+ acre Farm property that we acquired for the project. During this time, I also experienced a severe bout of congestive heart failure and then a post polio syndrome catastrophic loss of muscle mass and strength that ultimately left me very disabled for a long time.
But, back in 1982, through a long and indescribable series of miracles, in Nepal I met the great Vaishnava Scholar and first disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Dr. Acarya Prabhakar Misra, while on a degree-related Travel Study through Marylhurst College. Presenting my Ecumenical Retreat Plan to him and his good friend the Dharma-Father Dr. Rup Lal Batra (one of Mahatma Gandhi’s close disciples), I was blessed by them both with their enthusiastic support and formal endorsement of the project! In the Old Royal Palace in Kathmandu they both together formally anointed me, in an ancient Vedic ceremony, to carry on the non-sectarian ecumenical Sankirtan Mission of both the Jhansi League of Devotees and Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent Satyagraha Movement. They instructed me to always practice the Samata Yoga of equanimity and equal-amity towards all. Thus, ‘Taking their orders upon my head’, I determined that if it took the rest of my life, I would somehow, by the Grace of God and His Saints, fulfill this mission.
With the blessing and encouragement of these two great Acaryas, and that of other Acaryas and hundreds of other dear souls throughout the years, in spite of my sometimes severe health problems, I have resolutely pursued the fulfillment of this mission to establish an Ecumenical Retreat Center here in the coastal temperate rainforest of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. My Mother and Father, Daughter and Son have always been my biggest human helpers in this endeavor.
God Provides the Place For His Ecumenical Retreat
Then, after my blessed Mom passed-on to the Lord, perhaps through her heavenly help, by God’s design, Dad and I found the 12-plus acre property on the 750 foot elevation ridge top of Sugarloaf Mountain, just about 2 miles outside of Myrtle Point, and it was already zoned to allow a “private organizational retreat”!
In addition, about one acre of it had been a city-owned on-site managed household-waste-only dump site and scrap metal recycling yard. Thus, in spite of the property’s stunning views of two separate river valleys and the beauty of the rest of the property, its tax assessed value was only $12,000 dollars! The owners wanted $70,000 cash and we did not have the money, but over the next year as I researched the relevant county, state and federal laws and guidelines for landfill parks, we were able to raise enough down-payment by mortgaging the farm, and we began the clean-up process.
Our Progress Over the Last Six years
That was in 2004, and we are now a very long way from where we started. The massive one-plus acre initial clean- up in 2004 was followed by a huge clean-fill soil covering project, an Earth-sculpting erosion and drainage control project, the setting of hundreds of feet of boulder berms, the creation and base rocking of more than 1,500 liniel feet of driveways and 30 campsites, the planting of hundreds of ornamental trees, bushes, grasses and aromatic herbs, the planting of nearly 500 pounds of flowering ground cover seed, and the spreading of over 750 bales of grass hay for erosion control and top-soil enhancement.
We ‘hand-dug’ and concrete tiled a well, to water all of the park’s plantings, and by a miracle its water even passed strict testing standards for potential drinking water quality! We captured and controlled run-off for a series of water-gardens, small pools and ponds in which we are now growing comets (‘gold fish’) for mosquito control and plan to grow Koi. Then we put in an approved septic system with a 400 foot drain field so that the Hermitage could have 4 bedrooms.
The Hermitage Is Almost Complete
Presently we are in the process of finishing the 4 bedroom custom built Golden West triple-wide Manufactured Home that will be the Park Manager’s home and Hermitage. It is all installed on the West side of the ridge top site, with a spectacular panoramic view of the South Fork Coquille River Valley and the Pacific Coast Mountain Range in the distance. The Hermitage’s Great Room is 27 feet by 36 feet with an entire wall of windows on the Western River Valley and Coast Range View. It is a ‘super good cents’ energy efficient home with 2×6 walls, thermal-pane double insulated windows and extra insulation from the underlayment to the roof. Factory built, with some recycled materials, there has been much less waste in its construction than in a traditonal on-site ‘stick-built’ house. Custom sized windows and the careful site positioning of the house will take advantage of the summer shade to help cool the house and the winter sun to help heat it. It has been installed on a 4-6 inch thick, full concrete slab foundation with a split-face concrete block perimeter wall and metal strap tie-downs to the frame (in case of natural disaster). The interior walls have all been plastered and painted, so now the only big thing remaining to be done to the house interior is stretching the carpet in the Great Room.
The Utilities That Still Need To be Hooked-Up
We have had a deep well drilled on the North side of the ridge top, and a 2,500-plus gallon concrete water storage tank installed there to serve the Hermitage with gravity flow water through a completed conduit 3 feet under the County Road.
We have yet to finish the hundreds of feet of trenching for the water and electrical lines, and the installation of one electrical pole and transformer. We have built a small accessory building that will be next to the Hermitage for document storage and study work-space, and we have permits for both a park office and grounds maintenence/gardening center building. God Willing, these will manifest within the next couple of years.
Dad is putting a photo album of this development on this facebook site, beginning with our ‘before’ photos taken in 2004.
May Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady Mary Rosa Mystica Guadualupe Patroness of the Americas, May Saint Joseph Protector of the Church and all devotees, and May Saint Francis Assisi Stigmatist, who is the Patron Saint of Ecology, Interfaith Missions, and Catholic non-violence, May The Holy Spirit, God the Father and the Holy Saints, Vaishnava Acaryas and the Blessed Ones of all times and peoples now bless us and this Land, as we consecrate this Hermitage and Ecumenical Retreat and Peace Park to their divine service! AMEN +
Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti