Pagan Spirit Gathering looks to secure zoning permit – possible park closure

Stonehouse Park, a campsite where Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) is scheduled to be held, has come under fire by local residents for loud music festivals and illegal activities.  None of the complaints or arrests have occurred during PSG.  The park could be shut down by the County Board if members agree with  DeKalb County’s Planning and Zoning Committee’s decision to deny the park owners’ permit request.   PSG is now seeking a “special zoning permit that would allow Pagan Spirit Gathering to be held at Stonehouse Park this year even if zoning processes currently underway are not resolved this Summer.”

Originally, the county was looking to reduce the number of people permitted at the park to just 500.  After the first public hearing, Stonehouse Park was hopeful the limit could be raised to 4000.  But those hopes were dashed when 200 residents signed a petition to shut down the park.  If the county zoning board agrees with the petition and denies renewal of the Park’s 2008 permit the property would revert back to Agriculture-1 zoning, which means no public use would be allowed.

Concerns voiced by community memebrs and law enforcement include loud music late at night, underage drinking, and arrests at two events last summer where witnesses say multiple people were selling and smoking marijuana.  Park owners say they have improved procedures at the park and have barred those two groups from Stonehouse Park.

This is not the first time PSG has faced uncertainty due to drug charges at a campground by other events not related to PSG.  In 2009, PSG moved to Camp Zoe in Missouri.  In November of 2010 Camp Zoe was shut down by federal authorities after a four-year-long investigation allegedly uncovered rampant drug use and sales on the property.    In 2011, PSG moved to Stonehouse Park.  Now Stonehouse Park has come under increased scrutiny.

PSG’s Sharon Stwart has been working closely with Stonehouse Park, county officials and park neighbors in seeking a solution to the park’s Special Use Permit possible lower capacity restriction.  Today PSG sent out this message:

 As we reported in March, Stonehouse Park has been in the process of amending their required Special Use Permit with Dekalb County, Illinois.  Pagan Spirit Gathering Manager Sharon Stewart and others continue to be in frequent contact with a variety of local officials as well as neighbors and Stonehouse Park campground owners as part of the campground’s zoning process.

Although the outcome of the campground’s application for amending their existing zoning permit is not yet known, work also has begun on a special zoning permit that would allow Pagan Spirit Gathering to be held at Stonehouse Park this year even if zoning processes currently underway are not resolved this Summer. Circle Sanctuary is making contingency plans and continuing with preparations for holding Pagan Spirit Gathering 2012 at Stonehouse Park.
The DeKalb County Board is scheduled to vote on the petition to shut down Stonehouse Park at its May 16 meeting.  PNC-Minnesota continues to follow this story and will bring you updates as we receive them.

PSG – New Home, Same Spirit

The Pagan Spirit Gathering, one of the largest and oldest Pagan camping festivals, has changed location this year. The former site, Camp Zoe near Salem, Missouri, has come under federal investigation. This prompted Circle Sanctuary, hosts of Pagan Spirit Gathering, to move the festival to Stonehouse Park near Earlville, Illinois.  It is a venue change that many past attendees are applauding.

Pagan Spirit Gathering
Summer Solstice, June 19-26
Stonehouse Park near Earlville, Illinois
Registration closes June 4th

“I love going to PSG, but it was so hot and humid at Camp Zoe that I wasn’t going to attend this year.  All I did was lay in the creek and I missed most of the workshops because it was so hot.  But now that it has moved to the much cooler and less humid Illinois, I’m going!” said past attendee Eisling, “Just think, it should be nice enough we can even have camp fires at night.”

PNC-Minnesota talked with Ghetto Shaman Billy Crow Staver about the move to Stonehouse Park and what PSG will be like this year.  The Ghetto Shamans are a camping group that attends PSG each year and helps Circle Sanctuary with marketing the event.

“The PSG experience is something really special.  It’s a place where people can come together and let their guard down.  Magically things happen there.  It’s where I met my wife, I met her at PSG.  I’ve met some of my best friends through PSG,” Mr. Staver said of his years of attendance.  ” The people who attend PSG seek new connections to the Divine and form a new tribe.  It’s an experience that is hard to explain and shouldn’t be missed.”

Organizers say Stonehouse Park offers many more amenities than they have had at other PSG camps.  “There are more electrical hook ups throughout the camp.   There’s a larger shower house and a community store.  People will be able to keep their camp site cleaner since they have community sinks available for dishes and washing your clothes,” says Mr. Staver.  He notes the best change will be in how the camp feels to attendees, ” We’ll be able to camp closer together and be able to see one another and this creates more of a family community type feeling and that’s one of the biggest benefits to camping at Stonehouse park this year, we’ll get that feeling of a close family again.  We kind of lost that at Camp Zoe.”

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