This year has been extraordinarily challenging for everyone, so we are pleased to send you this update on how RMERC is doing today: what’s been accomplished so far, what has happened this year, and our plans for 2021.
It’s hard to believe that the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center began just three and a half years ago: the property (a lodge, cabin, and barn, with 180 acres of pristine forest, wildflower-filled meadows, rocky crags, and a babbling creek) was purchased in June 2017. So much has happened since then! Because the lodge was built in 1939, and largely neglected since the 1970s, many renovations have been needed to make it a home for meditation retreats. So we’ve been busy, installing the following systems:
- all new electric wiring and plumbing, including bathrooms and showers, kitchen and kitchen equipment
- a complete solar PV system with 8 solar panels and a backup generator for mountain power outages
- new insulation and air-source heat pumps (there was no heating system before!)
- two wells, two cisterns, and a larger septic system to meet code
- a new roof for the lodge (the barn also has a new roof, with the help of a Boulder County matching grant)
- carpets in rooms and hallways on the upper floors (to reduce noise)
- renovated first-floor doors and windows for better thermal efficiency
- the first-floor living room refurbished into a Dharma Hall for meditation and teachings
In addition, lots of work has been done on the land: making and improving trails, removing fallen trees, invasive weeds and accumulated brush (for fire mitigation). This summer the old bridge over the creek, which had become rickety and unstable, was replaced.
All of this has been possible only because of your love and support, and that of many other people who share the commitment to Ecodharma and nature retreat practice. In addition to many volunteers who have contributed countless hours helping on projects large and small, contributors have donated a total of $810,084. Due to the generosity of the seller, we were able to purchase the property for only … $375,000! The remainder of your donations have gone toward renovations. We still owe $180,000 on the mortgage.
RMERC in 2019
In 2019 RMERC welcomed over 600 practitioners attending 28 retreats, and the totals for 2018 were about the same. There were special retreats for women, and two gatherings for local Dharma leaders, to promote the development of a Front Range inter-sangha Ecodharma community. Because of our facilities, the beautiful and accessible location (just 30 minutes from north Boulder), and inexpensive rates (we are a nonprofit, keeping expenses at a minimum), RMERC has become very popular as a retreat venue. Regrettably, we are already unable to accommodate all the teachers and groups that would like to use our facilities: this year the retreat schedule was full, with all weekends and most weekdays reserved. And then Covid happened…
RMERC in 2020
Needless to say, our activities this year were much affected by the Covid pandemic. We were forced to cancel almost the entire season. Online Ecodharma retreats in April and October were led by teachers on the RMERC Board, and in the summer we were able to offer a few camping-only retreats with a limited number of people, which were very successful and much appreciated. The land was opened up for Covid-safe hiking, using a reservation system for trails that enabled hundreds of people to enjoy them.
Unfortunately, retreats for women, and a special retreat for women of color and LGBTQIA communities, were among the events that had to be canceled this year. Our support for such events is part of a larger concern to cultivate relationships that will help make RMERC available and attractive to all who wish to attend. We are pleased that, from the beginning, partial or full scholarships have been provided for those who need them, with particular attention to people of color and economically disadvantaged people. (Special thanks to the Lenz Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund for their financial contributions to these scholarship funds.)
Recognizing that ecological concerns cannot be separated from racial, economic, and other social justice issues, we are committed to creating a more equitable and inclusive organization, and we are working to become more aware of our own blind spots. The shocking murder of several Black men and women this summer has deepened our concern to address the connection between ecological crisis and other systems of oppression. To support these efforts, the men on the RMERC Board have been engaged in diversity training and group discussions examining the pernicious influence of white privilege and patriarchy. The Board is also in the process of writing a mission statement that will clarify and formalize this commitment to diversity, equity, and justice at all levels of RMERC operation. We remain open to questions and suggestions, especially from Black, indigenous and other people of color, and other marginalized people, on how to better serve their needs.
In addition to these social challenges, there have been some unexpected physical ones. In the spring a large branch broke off a tree and damaged the northeast corner of the lodge (it was repaired). In September a windstorm brought down the whole tree, but fortunately it fell just north of the lodge, its branches only brushing the stone Buddha that graces the lodge entrance (see photo). In October, the Calwood wildfire north of Jamestown caused a brief evacuation order, but the fire did not spread in our direction and was soon contained.
RMERC in 2021
Although the retreat schedule for next year was initially decided in March 2020, right now we don’t know what will be possible. If reliable vaccines become available soon enough, it might become feasible to open up the lodge in the fall of 2021, but it looks very likely that some if not all retreats will need to be camping-only (except for retreat staff socially-distancing in the lodge). Of course, not all retreat leaders will be comfortable with that alternative, so we are in the process of communicating with them and helping them decide what to do and how to do it.
Thank you for reading this update, and thank you for your continuing support, because it is you and people like you that make the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center possible. We wish you and your loved ones good health, ease, and peace in the coming year. And we hope to see you at RMERC sometime!