Freestone Update, October 2016
In 1974, UUCB members built a Geodesic Dome on 22 acres west of Petaluma, to fill the need of church members wishing to find a quiet place in nature for reflection, community, and fun. Over the years, it has been the site of Church picnics and BBQ’s, of literary groups, men’s and teen groups.
The Dome sits overlooking rolling hills that stretch westward to the ocean. From the deck, one can watch birds, deer, and other animals in their natural habitat. Inside, a large fireplace keeps guests warm in cool weather, and is an ideal spot for relaxing and watching the embers glow. The Retreat is complete with a full kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a generous supply of games for kids and adults to play.
The Freestone Committee has been renting and maintaining the property: grading the gravel road, keeping the fire extinguishers charged, cleaning, vacuuming, and making minor repairs, etc., in a self-sustaining mode without having to depend on the church for funding.
But now, 40+ years later, structural repairs are needed, and sadly our incredible retreat center is temporarily closed so that needed restoration can take place. An architect and a structural engineer have been retained for this purpose.
The preservation of “wild places” has been a long-standing tradition in U.S. history, from John Muir to Theodore Roosevelt. The Freestone Committee holds monthly meetings (first Sundays, 12:15) and work parties (second Saturdays) to care for and maintain the land and the building. Come join us; we welcome your ideas and elbow grease as we carry on the effort to keep Freestone a vital part of our church community. Contact Bob Moore, (510) 913-1009, for details.
– Ann Riley, Freestone Committee Secretary
Freestone: The Marketing Myth
As most of you know, Freestone is our retreat property located on a beautiful hilltop near Sebastopol, California. There are many misconceptions regarding Freestone. One is that Freestone is poorly marketed. If only Freestone were better marketed, goes the myth, we would not be facing the current shortfall. This myth is not true. In fact, the Freestone Committee has done a fine job marketing Freestone. The fact is that they are limited to marketing the facility by our conditional use permit and our insurance, which limits usage to outside groups.
Our conditional use permit does not allow us to rent Freestone to outside groups. Therefore the marketing could only be aimed at church members. Marketing to church members has been robust. Recently though, revenues have fallen. In fiscal year 2014–2015, Freestone generated $3449. Some say it is the new pricing structure, and some say it is the condition of the building. If you have stopped renting Freestone please tell me what we can do to get you to come back!
Due to health and safety concerns rentals of Freestone have ceased temporarily. A detailed inspection with recommendations for repair must be commissioned by the church, and all health and safety issues that are identified must be addressed before rentals resume.
Board of Trustees – Freestone Task Force chairperson
Freestone Dispatch, August 2015
What’s Happening with the Freestone Retreat?
A new neighbor has made an offer to buy the remaining two surplus parcels, originally sectioned off from the Dome’s 11-plus-acre main parcel to sell in order to provide income for the completion and maintenance of the Retreat. That division was many years ago, and the money from the sale that never closed is sorely needed to perform structural remodeling if we plan to continue to use the Dome. And then we would like to make it more attractive, with an interior design makeover, a hard surface road, and other amenities to make users’ stay the most comfort-able, nurturing and bucolic it can be.
We need you, the congregation, to make some decisions with us. A task force has been formed to come up with a long-range sustainable plan for the Freestone property. We were about to ask the congregation to approve the sale of these raw lots, with the funds held in reserve until the Freestone Task Force has completed its work and a sustainable plan for the property has been approved by the congregation. Wanting to get one more opinion, the task force and committee hired a consultant experienced with retreat properties such as ours to help. Very shortly we will have his recommendations. But the buyer will not wait forever, and it is hard to see how we can continue to maintain the Freestone Dome without the sale.
And this is where you come in. We will not continue to have this remarkable property unless you want it. So please, if you love Freestone, speak up to other members of UUCB and neighboring congregations. If you are unfamiliar with Freestone Retreat, talk to members of the Freestone Committee (look for our Sunday table), check it out on the UUCB website, and consider renting it for a weekend, or weekdays, or a whole week. Saturday, August 8, is our monthly open house, work party and potluck lunch. We hope you will come and visit, and perhaps help us decide what to do about the now dismantled barbecue area deck. We are planning to hold the annual church-wide Freestone picnic on Saturday, September 12—mark your calendar!
Hope to see you there, or read about your visit in our guest book.
Norie Clarke, Freestone Committee Chair 510.409.1551 cell
Freestone Dispatch, Feb. 2016
During the month of February, the Board-appointed Freestone Task Force will be conducting a survey. This survey will focus on church members’ knowledge about and attitudes towards our retreat center in Sonoma county. One hundred randomly chosen members will be invited to participate. This methodology will ensure that representative and reliable data is collected. If you are invited to participate, please help out and take the survey in a timely manner. Your taking and completing the survey should only require about 15 minutes.
Freestone Dispatch, July 2015
Times are a-changing for UUCB’s beloved Sonoma County retreat. The “FreeDome” is about to come into some money. We are in negotiation to sell off the remaining two surplus parcels, originally sectioned off from the dome’s 11-plus acre site, to sell for income to maintain the retreat. The dome can now get a substantive facelift to insure a safe and comfortable place for us to retreat and reflect.
A failing barbeque deck has been stripped to the bones, opening a vista of reflection on design, and most importantly: What will help attract our members and other UUs to this spiritual place of renewal? What do we need to provide for a large gathering, around a barbeque, sharing food, thanks-giving and song?
This is a time of great opportunity for our retreat, a place unique within our denomination—a place where individuals and families, as well as church groups, can go to get away, slow down, and reflect. Such spots are becoming rarer and rarer along the California coast as communities spread and encroach. The retreat may not be ours in thirty years, but its value to these outside forces will be even greater though its meaning for us be diminished. It would be a shame if we let it go because we could not recommit to coming together to provide monthly administration and hands-on maintenance to care for the “FreeDome.” Using a little of the marvelous creativity that abounds in our congregation, let’s reach out to neighboring UU churches to promote access and community building in the joy of sharing our special resource.