The first time I drove out to the property, I immediately thought, "You've gotta be kidding me!" I had already looked at somewhere between 20 & 30 available properties within a 50 mile radius of where we lived. We had already had a few meetings with prospective ecovillagers at our home and folks were sounding like if we had the right property at the right price, we'd be starting up right away. I remember looking at the heaps of trash that were embedded deep into the soil and thinking, "Jim, if you bring anyone from the group out here to look at this place, they'll think you've completely lost your mind."
A few months later, we attended an ecovillage workshop in San Diego where we were given a presentation from Intentional Community Guru Diana Leafe Christian. In the presentation, she showed us a type of village that she found most inspiring which she called "a land restoration ecovillage." She showed how a small group of determined people would come together to transform wastelands into wonderlands. She showed people bringing water and trees back to barren landscapes, and I immediately thought of the property.
Upon returning, I quickly went back to the property with new eyes. I began to look at its potential rather than its reality. I quickly began to see how this land could turn from a dump into a paradise. It would take work, a lot of work. It would take a long term commitment and sustained determination. It would take more than I have put into any other project and would probably need more than I could do in a lifetime.
I thought of how our current culture was trashing the Earth, and how this land and this project was the reality of our world. The trash was not hidden away in some impoverished country or out in the middle of the ocean, the mess was right there in your face. The land was our planet with all our dirty secrets lay bare and it's restoration would require many of the same skill sets, vision and sheer will that it would take to bring our world back from the brink. I thought, "What if we could turn this literal dump into a paradise?" From that moment on, there was no other property for me to find.
Some four years later, after much negotiation, learning, heartache, sacrifice, sweat and blood we moved to the property that we renamed "The Shire" and now it is our home. As we go further, our vision gets clearer and we hope will excite new crew to come aboard and join our restorative (and we believe necessary) work.
~ Jim Rizor Founding Member
Over the past 4 years EcoShire has hosted thousands of campers and they have rubbed off on us as well. Our business model is not very business like. We kind of pretend that each new visitor is a life-long friend who we've yet to meet. The result is that we've simply increased the size of our extended family. This went into overdrive when some of that new family took us to Black Rock City for Burning Man. Our goal now is to bring artists and Burners together to support a private regenerative outdoor conference and event center for Southern California.
We are making it easier for people to co-own and co-create the EcoShire mission of building the world our hearts know is possible. We are expanding beyond a campground with gardens to have regenerative farming, maker's spaces, storage and cabins for part-timers. We aspire to create the Southern California After-Burn Museum and support regional events where Art, Community and Regenerative practices can be seamlessly integrated.
Our goal over the next 5 years will be to expand the EcoShire model to more communities throughout the US...