Members of a Chinese Buddhist organization arrived back in the U.S. this weekend and found trees and a barricade blocking part of Shrine Road that leads to the Jesuit Retreat House they purchased seven years ago.
According to an attorney who works for the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, also called the Auriesville Shrine, shrine officials are concerned with the deteriorating condition of the road and seek to halt traffic unrelated to shrine business.
World Peace and Health Organization spokeswoman Jennie Wong said she arrived from Taiwan this weekend to find the large trees, a sign reading “closed” and road barricades blocking the road just before the Buddhists’ property line.
Wong said the group agreed to build its own road when it purchased the 76-acre parcel and 63,000 square-foot facility, but she said she was taken aback by the sudden deposit of trees and a hand-drawn sign.
“It is very improper,” Wong said.
The roadblock marks the second bizarre sight on the Auriesville Shrine since the Buddhists bought the retreat house.
Two years ago, a Schenectady man erected a similar roadblock in the same spot.
That roadblock featured a statue of a pizza maker and a broken jar of peppers.
The new roadblock consists of big tree logs and a hand-painted sign that reads “CLOSED.”
Wong said she is concerned guests coming to visit the Buddhists may believe the temple itself is shut down.
The Buddhists built a narrow, stone-filled path from Ripley Road up to the facility, but they fear it’s inaccessible both to emergency vehicles and mail carriers, and it is not known to any visitors.
Ripley Road, a dead-end street accessible from Noeltner Road, starts just a few hundred feet from the entrance to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs.
Both state police and a Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy were called to the Auriesville Shrine on Monday morning. Efforts to learn the result of those visits were unsuccessful.
A woman who identified herself as the secretary for shrine director Rev. George H. Belgarde hung up the telephone without taking a message, and there was no response to an email sent to the shrine afterward.
In a March 12 letter to Wong, Belgarde warned the Buddhists they had until April 1 to stop using Shrine Road.
The letter states that both Belgarde and the shrine’s buildings and grounds superintendent “have decided that due to heavy volume of traffic and deterioration of the road bed, your Shrine Road access must be closed as of April 1, 2013.”
The letter refers to another letter sent to the Buddhists last July from the shrine’s attorney, Carmel Greco of Johnstown.
Greco on Monday said he was unaware of the massive tree logs and barricade placed on the roadway.
Greco said it’s his understanding the most recent letter sent by Belgarde was considered a “final warning” because the Buddhists were asked to start using the Buddhists’ access road last summer.
“We obviously would never block their access to their property that we sold them,” he said.
The Buddhists placed a sign near the start of the access road, giving it the name “Friendship Road.”
On Monday, one of the Buddhists attempting to drive up the access road got stuck on the road in a two-wheel-drive van, put it in reverse, pulled back onto Ripley Road and gunned it up the hill, successfully getting back to the retreat house.
The road is accessible with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Jerry Skrocki of Amsterdam, a member of the World Peace and Health Organization who has been trying to assist the Buddhists with translation, posted a slate of photos on his blog following a confrontation with shrine officials Monday morning.
The blog can be found online at www.gskrocki.wordpress.com.
Both the Buddhists and the Jesuits, who run the Auriesville Shrine, are gearing up for the start of the warm-weather season.
The Buddhists this spring expect to receive guests for classes in the Guan Huan Mi Zong dharma, a form of Yoga they believe helps people channel positive energy and improve their health.