Former Old West theme park may turn into Buddhist center

By Matt Cooper, The Register-Guard, July 2, 2007

CROW, Oregon (USA) -- A Buddhist group has big plans for prime forestland in a remote valley that once was home to a popular - but illegal - cowboy theme park.

It's unclear, however, whether the religious group's development vision will fit with Lane County land use regulations, which prohibit most construction on prime timber property.

The Dzogchen Shri Singa Foundation, based in Nevada, announced recently that it has signed an agreement to buy a 160-acre parcel off Siuslaw River Road once known as Saragosa, an Old West entertainment park that closed in 1996 after run-ins with the county over land use violations.

The foundation said in a press release that it wants to build a $5 million retreat center where students can practice meditation and scholars can translate the Tibetan Buddhist canon into English.

But the land in this secluded valley southwest of Eugene-Springfield is zoned F-1 - prime forestland - and the county's rules require that it be used mainly for growing trees.

Under the county zoning code, the land also could be used for parks and campgrounds, but there's nothing in code that explicitly allows a retreat center or church on the land as it is zoned.

No one from the foundation has returned calls to discuss development plans.

In a press release announcing the purchase, Eugene resident Michael Maretich, the foundation's vice president, said: "We look forward to being responsible stewards of this inspiring land."

The county is unable to say whether the Buddhists' plans are acceptable because the group has not submitted a development plan, county planner Matt Laird said.

He cautioned, however, that changing the zoning to accommodate the project "would be a very difficult case to make" given that the area surrounding the parcel is also zoned for forestry. The Buddhists' site is surrounded by forests owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management and by a private timber company.

The property's history is as colorful as the staged shootouts once held there.

Rod Hamby, former owner of the parcel, built Saragosa in the 1990s, erecting a handful of vintage-style buildings on the forestland that is dotted with pastures, flower meadows, creeks, springs and lakes.

Visitors rented rooms over a centerpiece saloon and enjoyed scripted gunfights staged by characters such as "Hardtack" and "Pestus."

But Hamby never secured the necessary county permits for the recreational park. His structures violated development rules that are meant to protect waterways and prevent pollution on forested land, the county said.

After years of failed efforts to recast his park as something that the county could approve, Hamby quit in 1996.

"I don't care if I have to bring a Cat in here, shove it all into a pile and burn it up," he told The Register-Guard. "I've just had it."

Hamby sold the property to Charles and Diane Huey in 2000 for $400,000, according to county records.

The Shri Singa foundation signed an agreement in May to buy the land for $1 million from Diane Huey, according to county records.

The foundation said it plans to make a $200,000 payment on the property soon.

The foundation is guided by Dzogchen Khenpo Choga Rinpoche, a Buddhist meditation master who once spent seven years in the caves of Tibet, clothed in tatters while seeking spiritual enlightenment.

The foundation said it hopes to use the retreat center to teach Buddhist methods that "increase personal happiness, foster social harmony and plant the seeds for world peace."

That the same land was once home to quick-draw contests and square dancing is a curiosity not lost on local residents.

"Kind of goes from one side of the pendulum to the other, doesn't it?" said Joe Canaday, president of the local grange.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: