Island’s zen center to host open house at new property north of town

After many years of looking for property, the Puget Sound Zen Center has purchased nearly 7 acres just north of the Harbor School. This Saturday, it will host a land dedication and open house from 4 to 7 p.m.

The event will include guided walks on a trail that zen center members have created there, food, music, and a brief ceremony. All people are welcome — those who have been involved with the center over the years, as well as people who might simply be curious about it, according to Elizabeth Fitterer, a zen center member and a leader of the property committee.

“We are really excited to have this piece of land,” she added.

Specific plans are not in place yet for the land, Abbot Koshin Cain said, but the vision includes a meditation hall and being an important part of the island.

“We want the zen center to be an integral part of the community and serve the community as a whole, not only the zen practitioners,” he said.

The Puget Sound Zen Center first opened on Vashon in 2003, then in an attic space near IGA. In 2007, the center moved to the Mann studio near KVI and then to the Havurah in 2015.

Many islanders know the Havurah Ee Shalom as a place that serves the island’s Jewish community, but for the past few years, it has served both groups. Fitterer and Cain say sharing the space works well and that the purchase of land does not mean the center will be leaving any time soon.

“It has been such a good place for us,” Cain said. “We have really blossomed there and have more members and more programs.”

The center offers people a way to practice zen and understand Buddhism through of variety of offerings, including a Sunday morning service, Wednesday night meditations/discussions, morning sits on Mondays and Fridays, book discussions, retreats and a children’s program that is currently being reinvigorated, Cain said.

Currently, the center has about 50 to 60 members. Now, with the land secured, Cain said the plan is to build a meditation hall there within the next five years — but it may take longer.

The generosity of a donor made the purchase of the property possible, Cain said, but to build a hall, fundraising will be essential. Cain added that he would also like to see beautiful gardens there — those will have to be planned for as well and are intended to serve more than center members.

“We hope and expect that the gardens will be a resource for the community, and people who come to Vashon could stop in and see them,” he said.

Noting that the zen center had been looking to purchase land for many years — and had considered buying property with a structure on it, Fitterer said this property felt right.

This land has highway frontage, making it visible and accessible, but it extends far back enough that it offers privacy and a sense of quiet. It has a water share and has been approved for a three- or four-bedroom septic system.

“The more we thought about it as a community, it just felt like the right time,” Fitterer said.

Cain agrees, saying in a letter to zen center members that this property is the best he had seen in his many years of looking. It may take a long time for dreams to come to fruition, but the land provides many possibilities and a home of its own for the zen center.

“I’m excited about the possibility of these next few years of dreaming, working, practicing, and building together,” Cain wrote.

At the open house, guided trail walks will take place at 4:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Cain will lead a dedication ceremony and offer brief remarks at 5:30 p.m. Parking will be limited, and those who can easily walk in are encouraged to park on the street. The property is on the first driveway north of the Harbor School. See pszc.org for more information.

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