Five years ago, the Vancouver Island Vipassana Association bought 137 acres situated between the Slopes and Beaver Road.
The association is only funded through donations made by past students, and they are hoping that within the coming years they will be able to begin building a meditation centre on the land, and that they will become a part of the Lake Cowichan community, helping, through the centre, to draw business to the area.
Since the purchase of the land, the new owners have not had a problem with the occasional ATV or motorcycle enthusiasts who have used the property to access trails on either side.
But on Aug. 24, volunteers working on the property were disappointed to discover that two outhouses and two bear gates had been vandalized.
“I’d say there were six or seven very young kids,” said Daniel Gomez, a volunteer helping to clear trees around hydro poles on the property the day the vandalism took place. “I saw very well because I was working here cleaning up and they turned here and up the property.”
Gomez says the kids looked to be between nine and 12-years-of-age, and they were riding “tiny four wheelers.”
He says he didn’t think anything of it, and kept working near the bottom of the property.
“The next day, I went to check it out and found the outhouses tipped over and the gates broken.”
Gomez says he sees individuals use the property on a regular basis, and he has never had a problem with them.
“They know what they’re doing, they even waved at me once. They’re used to using this as their way through I guess.”
He guesses that the youths tried to access a trail that temporarily had a tree fallen across it as part of the clearing work that was taking place. And when they couldn’t do so they kept going up the property and decided to vandalize the outhouses and fences.
“The grown-ups found a way around it,” said Gomez. “Cause the tree is only partially on the road. Actually two days later, they started doing a path around it and as the days go by, the path gets clearer and clearer. And now it’s clear, we cleared all the roads.”
Kyle Althaus, a local resident, who, along with his wife Becca Shears, has been overseeing the clearing of the land and the building of a road that will lead up to the centre, says that the vandalism has not been reported to local RCMP because they are not looking to alienate anyone in the community.
Evie Chancey, an association board member, agrees.
“What would be the purpose of that?” she said. “Our intention [with going to the media] is to be informative. We want people to know that, OK, that wasn’t great, we just want them to try and treat the land respectfully.”
Both Chancey and Althaus said that the matter would be discussed at the next board meeting which took place on Sept. 17, and that whether or not the society will report the incident to the RCMP would be decided then. However, both felt this was unlikely.
“There was not that much damage,” said Chancey.
“We are hoping that people will be aware of this situation and be more considerate when they’re on private property. What is possible is that a decision is made to close these trails permanently. The Vipassana Association is hoping to allow people to continue to use the land respectfully,” said Shears.
For more information on the association, visit modana.dhamma.org.