By Evan Miller
Does this match your experience? On my first visit to Pathways I was surprised. I was surprised because I walked out the trail behind the retreat house, down the narrow strip of land between arbor vitae and spruce, and discovered that the path opened to a much wider and deeper space with woods, cottage, labyrinth, and meadow. It was like opening one of those Russian dolls, to find another doll hidden within that opens to reveal yet another treasure
I think I learned on my first trip that the open area east of the spruce trees was land that Pathways did not own, and that someday it might be developed outside of Pathways control. That seemed problematic. It didn’t take much imagination to foresee land use that would impinge on the quiet treasure of the woods.
In those early days, Pathways existed as 10 acres leased from Steve and Linda Thomas, as the area bordered in white in the satellite photo. (The retreat house is at the bottom of the photo. The top of the photo is the north edge of the property.)
Four years ago, Steve and Linda bought another 4 ½ acres, the area bordered in yellow in the photo below. Since then, Steve cleared the land of invasive brush and is planting it for additional spaces and paths to add to Pathways. This essentially expands Pathways land to 14 acres.
But all this time the space in the middle (bordered in pink on the photo) was owned by a neighbor, purchased back in the 1990’s with the intent to build one or two houses on it. In the summer of 2016 this neighbor let Pathways know that they had decided to sell it, and we had the opportunity to acquire it.
An anonymous donor, hearing of the situation, donated the funds to purchase the land, and we closed on the property last fall. This expands the total land under Pathways management to 17 acres!
In accepting the donation, the Pathways Board of Directors decided to let the land “be still” for three years before making decisions about how it will be used. We have, however, mowed a path on it so that it can be walked and prayed on. (In addition to maintaining the path, we’ll also be removing woody invasives, so it won’t be completely untouched.) You can access this path from just east of the Retreat House or from the main path at the point where it splits and enters the woods.
Speaking for the Pathways Board of Directors, we’re grateful that so many things have come together to make this possible. Thanks be to God!