Driving along Apple Canyon Road on the way to the Yokoji-Zen Center, evidence of the disaster that devastated this once lush and beautiful canyon abounds. The Mountain Fire that began July 15 and burned more than 27,000 acres before it was contained some two weeks later had a devastating effect on the area and the 160-acre center. Due in part to aggressive abatement measures, structures on the property were saved from the fire, but not from the mud and debris that overwhelmed it during the storms that followed.
In a letter to the Town Crier, Tima Ivanova, an Idyllwild resident and Zen Center student, writes, “In July of this year the devastating fire burned a ring around the Zen Center. It burned most of the trees on the hillside leaving nothing to hold the soil. September’s floods forcefully poured water and mud into the valley causing a lot of destruction to the Zen Center grounds. The Zen Center sustained damage to the water system; several buildings were affected by water and mud …”
And more damage is expected with the onset of the fall and winter months. The U.S. Forest Service released a “Soil Report for the 2013 Mountain Fire San Bernardino National Forest.” It reads in pertinent part:
“The Zen Center is located in the upper reach of Apple Canyon where 87 percent of the upper watershed burned. The July monsoon storm event clearly showed that the structures close to the drainage are subject to flooding and deposition of sediment …”
The report said the probability of damage or loss is major. The report predicted that 7.5 acre-feet of sediment would move through or be deposited “along the channel the first winter … Post fire runoff for a 10-year storm event is expected to be 1.8 times normal.”
The report also predicted that “there could be substantial damage to property and loss of life or injury.”
The outlook for the winter months, without the funding and/or manpower to begin in earnest the necessary preventive measures, is bleak.
The mission statement for the center is “to provide students and families with a supportive environment for the teaching, training, and practice of Zen Buddhism; to incorporate sound ecological principles into the development of Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center; and to ensure the continuation of the Buddha Dharma for future generations.”
But the center needs help to continue its mission.
It has 10 residents and about 110 local members and students who come from around the world — Argentina, New Zealand, Brazil, to name a few — to train with resident teacher Tenshin Roshi. The center doors are open to people from all spiritual traditions and walks of life; and groups represent a significant part of the center’s revenue.
With the potential for even more weather-related destruction, the financial impact in lost group business alone could be sizeable.
Ivanova writes, “The residents, members and volunteers are working very hard to maintain the center but more effort and funding is needed. The center is using various strategies to protect the buildings through winter and could use the help of professionals with heavy machinery, tractors etc. Also, money to hire people to support in this way is appreciated.”
The center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has submitted grant requests to 11 organizations and has yet to receive a response. The small staff maintained at the center are pulling double-duty; essentially doing their “regular” jobs and trying to help with flood prevention efforts, including digging out of the mess the last round of storms created. They are grateful for the help they have received from some Idyllwild volunteers, but the need is great and time is short.
The EarthWitness Foundation will donate a portion of the proceeds from its EarthWitness Inspirational Speaker Series, “Attaining Internal Balance in a World of Chaos,” featuring Christina Nordella, Darien Martus and Sam Crowell at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church. Foundation President Nordella said, “YZMC is EarthWitness’s ecological model when we did outdoor education classes on ecology and Native American culture. Over 300 children have had the experience or our Earth Day program at the Zen Center. The center is the only self-sustaining, living-off-grid community supporting up to 14 people year-round in Riverside County; yet another reason why it is such an important resource.”
“Here in Idyllwild we turn to each other when disaster strikes so close to home. It is how we, as a community, get things done, wrote Ivanova. “Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center needs help. Volunteer work, funds, people skilled in disasters, heavy equipment, even your ideas will be useful,”
For more information or to contribute, call the center at 951-659-5272.
Donations also are accepted online at zmc.org/donate.