Venerable William and Venerable Walter, in the 14-year program of Buddhist studies at the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society, are shown in this 2018 photo. Graphic file photo

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The Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society is halfway through Phase 2 in its master plan to house 1,600 monks at its Heatherdale campus, despite the pandemic slowing its progress.

The campus dining hall is under construction with the foundation being completed. It is expected to be finished by late fall of 2022.

Douglas Coles, president of Coles Associates, gave Three Rivers council an update on the project at its July meeting. The company helped design the master plan for the campus, which is divided into five stages.

Mr Coles said the entire build-out was originally scheduled to be finished in 2028, but the pandemic has created a delay of about 15 months. He estimated the full project is less than 30% complete.

GEBIS currently owns 185 acres at the Heatherdale site, which will be enough for now, Mr Coles said. By the end of the project the plan is to purchase one or two acres to the east and west in order to have sufficient storm water collection on the property.

If unsuccessful in buying those parcels, Mr Coles said they would have to develop deeper collection areas on the property.

“That becomes problematic. It doesn’t become undoable,” he said.

Venerable Eli was one of several monks to attend the meeting. He told councillors there are 95 acres of arable land on the campus property, which is not enough to meet their needs, so they lease some land for farming as well.

Mr Coles said there will be a series of silos to store grain when the master plan is fully realized. Along with the dining facility, dormitories and a temple, there will also be a visitor/administration centre and a pagoda, which is a tower with several tiers commonly used in Buddhism.

Many of the monks come from Taiwan, but there are others from South Korea, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and the US, Mr Coles said.

There are currently more than 600 monks split between the Heatherdale and Little Sands campuses.

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