Meher Mount continually welcomes many first-time visitors who know nothing of Avatar Meher Baba and not very much about Meher Mount. They often ask: “What is this place?” and “Who is Meher Baba?”
Followers of Meher Baba often are curious about the history of Meher Mount and how it came to be. Some ask for more details about Meher Baba’s 1956 visit.
All of these questions are part of the Meher Mount story — Avatar Meher Baba, His 1956 visit to Meher Mount, Agnes Baron and the founding of Meher Mount, and the purpose and role of Meher Mount.
In planning discussions, the board has identified the need to tell the Meher Mount story for visitors. But, where to start? How to best use the limited wall space? How to naturally guide visitors through the information?
Baba’s Fireplace was part of the living room of the guesthouse at Meher Mount where Avatar Meher Baba met with His followers and gave darshan (blessing) on August 2, 1956.
Now, as Baba’s Tree’s remains in seclusion for several years while it recovers, Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard area are a more integral part of the visitor experience.
As a result, there is a greater sense of urgency to finalize and implement the plans to preserve Baba’s Fireplace and enhance the courtyard area.
On December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire struck Meher Mount burning the stand of 16 eucalyptus trees by Baba’s Fireplace and the Visitor Center along with the large eucalyptus by the pathway to Baba's Tree.
In assessing the fire damage and the future fire threats to Meher Mount, the question was put before the board, “What to do with the eucalyptus trees?”
On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, when it was clear that Meher Mount was in the Thomas Fire zone, architect and volunteer Byron Pinckert sent an email suggesting that it was “time now to start thinking about how you want to document this set of events for the future.”
Byron took a giant step toward documentation on Thursday, December 21, 2017, when he went to Meher Mount armed with oversized maps from Google Earth of the property and a camera. He walked the property noting burned areas, damage and other items of importance.
The Weeds 'n' Water fundraising campaign and new water treatment system in 2003 started a chain reaction. It set in motion a number of projects and ongoing activities along with a planning approach that continue to shape Meher Mount today.
Weeds ‘n’ Water was both a fundraising campaign to raise $24,000 and a project to provide potable water and purchase a ride-on mower for weed abatement and fire protection for Meher Mount.
Its success demonstrated the power of planning and fundraising with community support and participation. In addition, Weeds ‘n’ Water helped to create a better visitor experience and to make the Manager/Caretaker job more manageable.
The Stone Sign & Marker Project commemorates and marks the touchstones related to Avatar Meher Baba’s 1956 visit. Equally, as the number of visitors to Meher Mount increases each year – a 17% increase in the past two years to more than 1,500 visits in 2016 – it is important to have signs that inform, guide and orient these visitors.
These markers create lasting reminders of Avatar Meher Baba’s presence at Meher Mount for the guidance of present and future generations of visitors.
Infrastructure is not always buildings, roads and water treatment systems – although those items can consume much of Meher Mount’s focus. Infrastructure also includes financial systems, database management, and communications systems.
Since 2010, Meher Mount has been using a cloud-based platform from Salesforce.org called the Non-Profit Starter Pack. In the buzzwords of the industry, this system is for Constituent Relationship Management (CRM).
February is National Bird-Feeding Month and includes the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. These events are highlighted because when Avatar Meher Baba visited Meher Mount in 1956, He said, "Now, go out and see the view and try to love Baba through nature. This is all due to my love. This whole creation, this nature, all the beauty you see, all came out of me."
The idea for the patio first came about when the Board was planning for the Workshop. An early concept called for a workshop/garage built into the side of the hill with a rooftop patio in view of the Bluffs.
That concept proved to be too expensive, but the idea of a patio with a view of the mountains stuck.
If you spend anytime at Meher Mount, you discover there is an unseen pull of destiny that seems to draw visitors to Meher Mount by sheer happenstance. That pull of destiny also draws those who choose to be Manager/Caretakers at Meher Mount.
Coincidentally, on the day construction of the Workshop began on January 20, 2011, former Manger/Caretaker Bill Goodrum, who served with his wife Pamela from 2000 to 2002, arrived at Meher Mount unaware of the day’s events.
He had the opportunity to witness the groundbreaking.
The barn was basically meant to be temporary. At that time there was no money and no shelter for anything. What I did on the barn was triage: meant to be basically a tent to protect the few things that survived the fire. At the time, we couldn't even afford a tent.
To repair that structure is no longer a wise investment. Please: just tear it down. It's time.
It all started with a routine question from the Ventura County Planning Department in reviewing plans for the construction of a new Workshop at Meher Mount: “How far is the septic tank from the proposed buidling?”
"Far enough," we said.
That question got the Board to thinking about the septic tank – one of those “deferred maintenance” projects that keeps getting, well, deferred.
After spending the summer of 2009 talking to contractors and securing bids, Meher Mount found an individual and a firm, Phil Riege of Coastal Constructors, who would take on the Workshop project for a reasonable cost.
In 2010, the construction and engineering plans were submitted to Ventura County for approval. As with any project at Meher Mount, there were some unforeseen delays, obstacles, and plan changes.
In the beginning of the planning process for the Workshop, a number of ideas and building sites were discussed. All of these ideas were eventually determined not suitable for Meher Mount, its needs, and its finances.
The Board and Manager/Caretakers went back to the basic criteria for the Workshop.
The need for the fireproof garage/workshop sparked a series of discussions which led directly to the development of a long-range master plan for Meher Mount.
Meher Mount had earlier begun long-range planning discussions by holding two community meetings – February 7, 2004 and May 22, 2004 –to brainstorm ideas that would help guide the master plan.
When the $40,000 donation was made, the donor specified that $20,000 be used to purchase a new tractor and $20,000 be used to build a "fireproof" garage/workshop to house the tractor.
The reason for the "fireproof" request was because on October 14, 1985, a fire had swept through the Upper Ojai Valley destroying all the buildings, equipment, and vehicles at Meher Mount.
The idea of building of a new Workshop started on January 13, 2007, at a work party in honor of Agnes Baron’s 100th birthday. Agnes Baron, born on January 17, 1907, was a co-founder of Meher Mount who cared for the property for Avatar Meher Baba from 1946 until her death in 1994.
Whenever individuals are doing the manual labor that has been one of the hallmarks of Meher Mount - pulling weeds, trimming trees, cutting tall grasses by hand, and hauling trash and debris - the discussion always turns to how to make the tasks easier.
In May 2012, the Board of Directors of Meher Mount adopted a Master Plan. Planning for the future of Meher Mount is a careful, thoughtful and daunting process.
The master plan provides a framework for planning, operations and future development of programs, activities and infrastructure.
It is designed to be broad enough to encompass all elements and aspects of Meher Mount, while also being focused enough to provide consistent direction and guidance over the long term.
From the beginning of their tenure in 2002, Ray Johnston and Elizabeth Arnold felt that being volunteer Manager/ Caretakers at Meher Mount was a calling.
To be a Manager/Caretaker at Meher Mount, according to Ray, is to be willing to serve, to put oneself in the flow of Meher Mount's unfolding destiny, and to be part of the ongoing challenges and benefits of living on this land sanctified by Avatar Meher Baba's presence.