What is Planting Zen in Siskiyou Square?

On a 14-acre former landfill in a low-income and long-neglected part of Portland, a new gathering place is taking root–a place where people can walk in tranquil native habitat, take up residence with spiritually-minded people, work in community gardens, bring their children to school or study, and practice ancient contemplative teachings.


A Zen Training and Study Center

Cultivating peace, clarity, and compassion in an open, welcoming Buddhist community

A portion of Siskiyou Square will be home to a traditional Zen temple, adapted aesthetically to the Northwest region, and designed for low energy consumption. The temple will include a meditation hall (the Sodo, pictured here), ceremony hall (hondo), dormitories, office, classrooms, and community gardens–allowing Dharma Rain to offer meditation practice, classes, and workshops to members and nonmembers alike.

Original Statement of Purpose for Planting Zen

Group meeting

Photo by Ken Barker

A Community and Neighborhood Refuge

Working at the grassroots level to improve the safety, livability and beauty of a neighborhood resource

More than 20 neighborhood groups, educational institutions, religious groups, ecological nonprofits, and government entities have contributed labor, funding, or in-kind support for people to meet, walk a meandering path, enjoy open natural spaces (including a fruit orchard and community garden), or visit the temple and school playground.

Letter of Support by Commissioner Nick Fish


An Array of Educational Programs

Promoting community, mindfulness, and nature-based education

We are building a schoolhouse and playground for our new Frog Song Montessori Preschool and Dharma School–our nationally-recognized Buddhist Sunday school program. The site will also be a “living” campus for area schools (Portland State University, Portland Community College, Madison High School and neighboring elementary schools) to study conservation and ecology and to conduct field research.

DharmaGarden Draft Strategic Plan
Grant Proposal for Siskiyou Field Lab
Frog Song Montessori Preschool

  Landscape on-site

A Cohousing Community

Developing a residential community for those committed to sustainable living, spiritual growth, and harmony

Siskiyou Cohousing is building a 31-unit residential community on 2-acres of Siskiyou Square that will bring families together with a common interest in sustainability, spirituality, diversity, and environmental stewardship. There will be a central community house, social activities and connection to activities on the land.

Facebook: Siskiyou Householder Refuge

Planting in the pond

An Environmental Cleanup Project

Integrating holistic, innovative environmental systems to deal with residual effects of the site’s former uses

Once a landfill for construction waste, and before that a rock quarry, Siskiyou Square was neglected for decades before Dharma Rain purchased it in 2012. Working with grants from the EPA and others, we have invested in stormwater management and methane mitigation systems, and we have improved the top soil to prepare the land for its new uses.


An Ecological Restoration Initiative

Creating vibrant and resilient native habitat and preserving open space at a crucial link in Northeast Portland’s largest green area

After purchasing the heavily impacted site, we started in on a ecological master plan, removing invasive specifies, planting an oak savannah, restoring an overgrown ravine and planting native species. Siskiyou Square will be a vital link in a local greenway–providing habitat, forage, passage for wildlife and a place of refuge from urban surroundings.

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