By Associated Press • 

Group says rules halt Central Oregon youth camps

SALEM — A Christian group says state regulators are thwarting plans to expand youth camps at an Oregon site that became notorious in the 1980s when an Indian guru and his followers took over the area.

The Legislature last year passed a law requiring the state land-use agency to write rules for new youth camps such as the ones that the nondenominational Young Life proposes near Antelope in Central Oregon, the Bend Bulletin reports.

The area is dry and sparsely populated, something that attracted Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a guru from India, and thousands of followers into a religious enclave they called Rajneeshpuram.

When the group went into bankruptcy after attempted killings of politicians and lawsuits over its incorporation, Dennis Washington, a wealthy Montana-based philanthropist, acquired the property and gave it to Young Life.

Last year, the group told legislators it planned to spend $75 million to expand their camps by 1,500 beds.

On Friday, the state Land Conservation and Development Commission is expected to get a draft of the rules the law outlines.

A Young Life representative says its plans won't go forward if the rules are adopted.

The draft rules would limit all new camps to 350 people, and up to 600 if the group sets aside more land, said Craig Kilpatrick, a land-use consultant. The rules would also prevent Young Life from connecting to an existing sewer system and limit camper activities, he said.

“I can absolutely guarantee it wasn't the intent of the Oregon Legislature to pass a bill and create rules that would allow for no camp at all,” he said. “We would not have made an application if the rules today were passed.”

Jon Jinings of the state Department of Land Conservation and Development said the agency listened to advice from a variety of interested groups, such as environmentalists, Native Americans and local government officials. The proposals were changed as a result, including some responsive to Young Life requests, he said.

As an example, he said, the rules at first prohibited showers in dormitories, but now they allow one shower for every five beds. “I think we really responded to what they've asked for in a way that continues to be acceptable and reasonable to the other folks at the table,” Jinings said.


Information from: The Bulletin,

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