Save Deer Park Ridge – protecting the tranquility of Deer Park for future generations
Letter from the Abbot to be shared at sangha gatherings
We would like to share with you about the wonderful difference that Deer Park is making in the lives of so many practitioners and the opportunity we have to engage in assuring that this special place is protected for future generations to experience.
Deer Park’s natural environment and quiet teachings of the monks and nuns provide a wonderful foundation for practice. Each morning visitors and monastics awaken to the sound of the temple bell and meditate together as the rising sun awakens the birds in our peaceful valley. Noble silence continues through breakfast as the birds sing and the rabbits and children share the stillness. Walking meditation deepens our connection to the land as we move as one, slowly through the valley and forest – feeling the softness of the earth and hearing the leaves crackle under our feet. This is the touching of the present moment that so many school children and families are finding at Deer Park.
Deer Park is fulfilling the intention of Thich Nhat Hanh and the four-fold sangha to provide a tranquil environment for families, individuals and children to deepen their practice. Thay and the sangha recognized that the U.S. and Southern California, in particular, needed a practice center in a natural environment where young people and families could experience and develop their practice away from the distractions and temptations of modern society. Many of us have experienced these transformational benefits first-hand as Deer Park has hosted thousands of groups and individuals over the past ten years. This tranquil and natural environment is key to giving young adults a refuge to find a firm foundation in themselves and the practice.
Deer Park is located in one of the few natural valleys left in Southern California. It consists of 400 acres of natural chaparral and oak woodland. The main valley in which the meditation hall and hamlet rest is well protected as a natural setting on the east side by the open-space park known as Daley Ranch. This county park provides over two thousand acres of natural habitat. The slope rising to the west of Deer Park is private. This hillside is part of the 220 acre MJM Ranch owned by a local family.
Unfortunately, the tranquility of Deer Park is at risk
The owners of the MJM ranch have placed the 220 acre property on the market for sale. If this land is purchased and developed into houses it would significantly change the experience of Deer Park. A ridge line of homes overlooking Deer Park would transform the setting from a natural environment to more of a suburban practice center. The new neighbors may not be willing to accept the early sound the temple bell. Noble silence and walking meditation with the sounds of birds may be replaced by the sounds of leaf blowers, radios and small engines – the sounds that many practitioners come to Deer Park to get a break from.
However, if we act now we can save this area.
A small group of practitioners with experience in land protection, real estate negotiation and fundraising has teamed up with the monastics to engage in protecting the land adjacent to Deer Park. This effort is called the “Save Deer Park Ridge” Campaign. This four-fold team has worked with the land owner and conservation groups to identify a way to protect the valley and hillside to the west of Deer Park. The first step is to raise $500,000 in donations and grant money to purchase a key 28-acre portion of the land and secure a two-year option to purchase the rest of the property. Private donations toward the initial purchase will put us in position to get the grant funding needed for purchasing the remaining land.
We are making good progress both in raising the necessary funding and in negotiating a protection plan with the land owner. With the contributions of practitioners such as yourself we have raised over $250,000 in donations and long- term loans toward the purchase of the first 28 acre parcel. We believe that if we get strong sangha participation we will be able to raise the remaining $250,000 for the 28 acre land purchase over the next six months.
We have been in communication with the land seller (MJM Ranch). They are encouraged by our progress and are open to negotiating how to protect more of the land. MJM has offered to sell a conservation easement to protect the additional 120 acres that faces Deer Park for an additional $500,000.
Our plan is to continue to focus on purchasing the 28 acre parcel that is most threatened by development and use that purchase to secure an option for purchasing a conservation easement on the additional 120 acres. We are in the process of updating the land assessment to reflect any decrease in land value that may have occurred over the past year since the original assessment. The current slow housing market is giving us an advantage in our negotiating but we will need to act in a timely manner to assure that the land is not sold to a developer also looking to take advantage of the depressed market pricing.
We are reaching out to sanghas and individuals for support. Please help us by bringing this situation to your sangha and discussing how to inform and engage your sangha members and others who see the value of Deer Park in bring the practice to the community.
Brother Phap Dung
Abbot of Deer Park Monastery
For more details please visit
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Last Updated (Monday, 09 May 2011 20:44)