What is at Stake?

Crestone Mountain Zen Center is a Zen Practice Center for Personal Retreats and Monastic Practice. It is located in Southern Colorado above the San Luis Valley on the western slope of Crestone Peak. It was founded and is led by Zentatsu Baker Roshi, the Successor of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. Our effort is to make Zen Buddhist teachings conceptually, emotionally, and practically accessible to contemporary Western practitioners.

This lineage holds its place on a campus of ten handcrafted buildings including a Zendo for meditation and a Dharma Teaching House, both of which are Japanese wood-joinery.

“Crestone Mountain Zen Center is a dramatic, isolated, beautiful location”

- Zentatsu Baker Roshi
The campus is home to six museum-quality Buddhist statues and many more inherited lineage items. The exact and only bronze sister of the Hiroshima Peace Park Bodhisattva. A 700-year-old Japanese Jizo Bodhisattva. A three-foot gold-leafed, Shakyamuni Buddha, which lives at the center of the Zendo. There are also three large Tibetan Tankas, a large Japanese Buddhist painting, a large 17c Japanese painting of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, and many kakemonos, rolled scrolls, and contemporary art.

Suzuki Roshi inherited us Zen teaching implements, robes, scrolls, teabowls, papers, and other artifacts, as well as monastic instruments, bells, drums, and the like. The center also holds a lifetime collection of several thousand volumes – a Buddhist library curated by Richard baker. These are all essentially important.
It is paramount that this space, created through everything within, is safe and the history remains preserved.

The impact of our remote location holds immense value for our teaching, however, it means we are remote. If there is a fire, no one will come to save us. We need to be self-sufficient when fighting the inevitable fire.
Kannon Do in the entrance area of the zen monastery Crestone Mountain Zen Center
The most important thing I want to see happen – as soon as possible and of course before I die – is that we make sure that the Crestone Mountain Zen Center has good chances to survive forest fires – and any fire.

- Zentatsu Baker Roshi
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Please help us definitively protect the Crestone Mountain zen center


Phase I: Human Fire Shelter

After consulting with both the local fire chief and an Alaska fire jumper, we have been advised to construct a heat resistant fire shelter to protect people in the case of a fire emergency. CMZC is located off Camino Baca Grande, the road that runs down the mountain to the town of Crestone. This means there is only one route in and out of the Zen Center. In the case that that road is impassable (remember, here fire moves up the mountain and so will come from below) we need a fire and heat resistant structure where residents and guests can shelter while the fire passes or, if necessary, while they wait to be evacuated.

Cost Estimate: $40,000

Phase II: Water Delivery System

CMZC holds ‘first-in-line’ water rights to the Crestone Mountain Watershed via Spanish Creek, a creek conveniently located a short distance up the mountain from CMZC. We have been advised that we need to store 200,000 gallons of water to be able to protect the campus for 2-3 hours, the duration of time our fire consultants believe it will take for fire to move through the area. As well as the right water storage equipment we will need to install a PVC piping system below the freeze line, two fire hydrants, a pump, sprinklers on the buildings’ exteriors, and the requisite plumbing to connect the sprinkler system to the hydrants.

Cost Estimate: $390,000

Phase III: Lineage Artifact Fire Shelter

An underground fire safe storage room A subterranean, fire/heat rated structure to store and protect our lineage robes, Suzuki Roshi’s correspondence, and to which our most precious and beloved ritual objects, statues, and cherished, rare pottery could be moved if there was active threat of fire with time to prepare.

Cost Estimate: $20,000

Its 240-acre campus is at 8400 feet on the West side of 14,300-foot Crestone Peak. It is 1000 feet above the 8000 square-mile San Luis Valley, an ancient lakebed, and largest Alpine Valley in the world (a bit larger than Massachusetts).

We annually mitigate, clear brush, limb trees: expanding defensible space. We train with firefighters. We are as ready as we can be- except - we need STORED-WATER.


200,00 Gallon Tank
$ 300,000
Electricity and foundaton for tank
$ 40,000
Water main and hydrants
$ 30,000
Est. Total Cost
$ 370,000


Campus Sprinkler System
$ 20,000
$ 390,000
All can be protected with enough stored water

- Zentatsu Baker Roshi
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2020/2021 Fire Season

Fires in Colorado can cover vast areas of wilderness, and they can be driven by fierce 100 mph winds. In 2021, the Marshall Fire in Boulder Colorado burned over 1000 homes in a matter of minutes.
Also in 2020, a lightning bolt struck the ground on a dry summer day just south of Crestone. We were lucky that day. The fire spread just up to the trees against the mountains. In an otherwise very busy fire season in Colorado, there happened to be a lull in activity which allowed wildland fire teams to divert tankers and other resources to stop the fire in the lowlands, just before it could engulf the forest.

2019 Decker Fire

In Colorado, the threat of forest fires is palpable in the summer months. It is common for the mountains to be cloaked in smoke from fires across the desert southwest. Climate change is making the problem even worse. Of the 20 largest forest fires in Colorado recorded history, 11 have occurred in the past five years. The path of destruction from fires can be enormous. In 2019, the Decker Fire north of Crestone burned almost 9,000 acres, shown in the adjacent photo.
While the Decker Fire may appear large in this photo, it was actually quite small by Colorado standards. In 2020, Colorado had three fires that were all 15 – 20x larger. For reference, the entire Sangre de Cristo Range shown in this image, from Poncha Springs to the Great Sand Dunes, would have been completely destroyed by either of the two largest Colorado fires in 2020.

Thank you for ensuring the survival of Crestone Mountain Zen Center!
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