What is to become of community labyrinth?
Last updated 7/19/2022 at Noon
The committee responsible for the Sisters Community Labyrinth, in the southwest corner of the East Portal, is concerned about the future of the labyrinth, as the portal transitions to a “mobility hub.”
The property was owned for years by the U.S. Forest Service, which recently completed its sale to the City of Sisters. The labyrinth was constructed in about 2012 as the final project of a Ford Family Foundation leadership program.
Planning for the mobility hub, bounded by West Hood Avenue, Highway 20, and McKenzie Highway, has begun, with the transportation engineering firm Kittleson and Associates leading the effort. A mobility hub is a focal point for multi-modal transportation uses, including bikes, pedestrians, cars, and public transportation.
Kittleson representatives and members of City staff walked the property in late June to consider existing conditions, facilities, uses, and possible changes and improvements. Usage of the site is generally light. On-site community features — an interpretive center and the labyrinth — get minor usage. There is also a restroom building, water, and power.
The project team agreed that nothing is off limits when evaluating future options for the site.
Members of the labyrinth committee – Sharlene Weed, Jan McGowan, Pat Leiser, and T. Brown – say they have not received a clear response from the City of Sisters to questions about the future of the labyrinth. Will it remain in place? If not, will the City move it?
City Manager Cory Misley could not give a definitive answer on those questions when queried by The Nugget, as the evaluation of the site is still underway. Misley said that at this point in time, they don’t know anything for certain, but the property is currently a “blank slate” to be designed as a mobility hub.
“The money for the hub is from an Oregon Department of Transportation grant, and they will need to work within the confines of that grant,” he said.
Traffic flow is a primary consideration. Saving as many of the large trees as possible is a priority.
Leiser said that the labyrinth is a sacred place for some community members. There are four formal events held there throughout the year — the summer and winter solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes. They average about 25 participants at each event. The labyrinth is under a committee of Sisters Park & Recreation District.
“It would be very sad if the labyrinth were to go away. The movement of the solar system as we see it from earth is one universal constant that everybody can see,” Leiser said.
Utilizing the labyrinth in the seasonal celebrations is meaningful to the participants.
A labyrinth is an ancient symbol of wholeness. The imagery of the circle and spiral combine into a meandering but purposeful journey. The labyrinth represents a journey or path to one’s own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.
There are currently more than 5,000 identified labyrinths around the world used in rituals by people with diverse religious beliefs and spiritual practices including Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, and Pagan. They can be found in outdoor spaces like parks (and the East Portal), churches, sanctuaries for healing, backyards, beaches, and hospital gardens.