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Stonehouse Park could reopen as yoga center

SYCAMORE – The once-troubled Stonehouse Park could be a getting a new name and fresh start as a Chicago yoga studio owner wants to open a retreat center on the 37-acre property.

Daren Friesen, director of Moksha Yoga Center in Chicago, presented his plan for Stonehouse Farm Retreat & Sanctuary during a public hearing Thursday at the DeKalb County Administration Building.

The proposed sanctuary would replace the late-night concert festivals and war re-enactments that took place there under the previous ownership.

If approved, the Earlville “agritainment” venue will feature yoga retreats and spiritual gatherings.

Friesen said he planned to host weekend events throughout the summer that would bring people from his Chicago studios and surrounding counties and cities to participate in meditation, yoga and organic farming – a cornerstone of the potential site.

He said there would be no alcohol or drugs allowed and only about 100 people would be on the site for each event except for larger annual gatherings.

He said maintaining a tranquil atmosphere and preserving the natural environment was key for the sanctuary.

Rachel Zargo, a business partner with Friesen, said everything is centered around healthy living and the location was perfect for an organic farm, which is highly desirable for those in the city who are disconnected from food sources.

“It’s about people that want to have clean lifestyles, eat healthy and learn about farming practices,” Zargo said. “We want people to get out and enjoy nature.”

The site could also feature recreational activities such as camping, Frisbee golf, nature walks and swimming.

The proposed site is a stark contrast compared to the previous use of Stonehouse Park, which shut down in September after the DeKalb County Board revoked the special use permit from the owners for violating codes, failing to secure a loan and drawing the ire of hundreds of nearby residents.

The park came under fire from neighboring residents for loud, late-night concerts, frequent and illegal alcohol and drug use from attendees and people walking through their yards to go to and from the park’s events.

Friesen assured public hearing officials his mission was completely different and he was willing to work with the county every step of the way.

The Moksha Yoga Center opened in 1999 and now has three Chicagoland studios with 5,000 active students a month, Friesen said.

Events and classes at existing studios are already booked through 2013 and filling up in 2014.

The proposal will need to gain approval from the DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee on March 27 before going to the full County Board for a vote April 17.

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