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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

Community’s Development Sets a Green Example

Apr 06, 2011 02:06AM

For more than 30 years, Kashi Ashram in Sebastian has nurtured personal growth and spiritual awareness through meditation, yoga and interfaith community living. Kashi is now in the process of developing its 80 acres of beautiful rural Florida and is applying that same conscious awareness to the physical growth and development process. There are two main projects underway, including 32 individual residential lots, and the 6 million dollar construction of By the River independent affordable housing for low-income seniors.

A number of Kashi’s more than 80 residents have lived there since the late 70’s and early 80’s, when Sebastian was a small, quiet fishing town. The prospect of developing the property has been a daunting prospect for Kashi residents, as well as for the neighbors, who wonder how the construction can proceed while maintaining the natural beauty of the property. However, when the full site plan development was reviewed by local county commissioners in 2003, it was approved unanimously – in part, because of the attention to preserving as many natural features as possible.

Of the total 80 acre site, 30 acres have been retained as wetlands; this allows the natural vegetation to remain untouched and become a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. The development has been planned meticulously to minimize the cutting of trees, particularly the soaring live oak trees; and for every tree that is cut, Kashi has pledged two more to be planted. In areas where road levels have required raising the ground level by several feet, special tree wells have been constructed around the trees, which otherwise would have died from suffocation or had to be cut down.

To the fascination and frustration of the construction crew, the standard storm water ponds have been morphed into natural shapes which include full growth trees whenever possible, even creating islands of trees in the ponds when needed. The crew that poured the concrete for the sidewalks were amazed that none of the sidewalks were straight – again integrating natural curves and turns around existing trees.

Funded partly by the State’s Department of Elder Affairs, and partly by the county, By the River is already recognized by the State as a demonstration model in providing affordable housing for seniors. Wherever possible, green elements have been included in the design and construction, starting with the orientation of the buildings on the land, choices of building materials and use of energy saving devices.

Founded in 1976, Kashi’s interfaith community has raised more than 75 children. For 24 years, Kashi ran the River School, which graduated more than 325 students. So it is not surprising to find out that one of the overall concepts of Kashi’s development is the creation of an intergenerational village, with the future school site deliberately located adjacent to the senior housing. For many years, Kashi has been offering yoga, meditation, chanting, health-related workshops and retreats. The planned development takes this holistic theme a step further with future plans for a spa and wellness center, as well as professional workshop and dining facilities.

Kashi has taken the concept of what ‘going green’ entails, from trees and birds, to yoga and seniors. It has created a holistic community, which, even as it develops and expands, respects and welcomes all forms of life – be it plant, animal or human.

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