INTERNATIONAL PEACE GARDEN It has been a summer of conflict for the Peace Garden. The floral wonders that usually grace the Peace Garden at this time of year have been set back by a series of rough weather events. However, the striking new conservatory is open and finishing work on the 9/11 Memorial is under way.
There are other improvements, too, some in progress and others on the drawing board. Progress continues to blossom at the Peace Garden. Despite less than cooperative weather the Peace Garden staff continues their meaningful work.
"We had late spring frost and then 34 out of 61 days of rain, including 20 consecutive days," said Doug Hevenor, CEO of the Peace Garden. "In July we typically don't get moisture but we had 11 events, including a 2 1/4 inch rainstorm and hail four times. My hat is off to all of the staff that is out here grinding."
Kim Fundingsland/MDN •
Flowers have long been a featured attraction at the Peace Garden and the envy of gardeners everywhere.
Extreme wet conditions this spring and summer have made it difficult to get all the planting done at the Peace Garden on the preferred schedule. Many of the plants that were growing nicely suffered during pelting hailstorms. Even regular maintenence, such as work on fountains and pumps, has been hampered by wet grounds.
However, the Peace Garden staff has been working long hours and is catching up. They know that visitors to the Peace Garden expect to see wonderful floral displays in a perfectly serene setting along the 49th parallel that marks the border between the United States and Canada.
"You can't think of the Peace Garden without thinking about serenity," said Hevenor. "People do get caught up in the annual garden. When conditions are right, the flowers are great."
New conservatory and cafe
While the flowers remain a main show piece at the Peace Garden, another attraction has emerged. A new conservatory has been completed and is open to visitors. The building is a striking show of architecture that blends in perfectly with the Peace Garden.
"They were able to tie in the existing stone work in the garden to the new building. You can sit back and just appreciate the architecture. It's pretty spectacular," said Hevenor.
Inside the spacious conservatory is a large atrium flanked by a gift shop and the Border Cafe. The atrium and adjacent greenhouse are currently being filled with the Don Vitko cactus collection, believed to be the foremost collection of succulents in existence. The conservatory and greenhouse will be open year round.
The Border Cafe is fast becoming a draw by itself. Visitors are discovering the convenience of having a full service restaurant within the borders of the Peace Garden. The cafe has been featuring Sunday buffets with an international flavor such as Ukrainian, Mexican, Italian and Western.
Border Cafe customers have the choice of dining inside, or outside on a spacious patio that is immersed in the Peace Garden. Careful planning went into a new garden that borders the cafe patio.
"You have to look a little closer, but it's a culinary garden as well. You'll see oregano, thyme and sage. There's native roses and Asiatic lilies. Beyond that there's wild gooseberries that you can walk into the garden and eat. There's tart cherries and raspberries to pick and eat," explained Hevenor.
9/11 Memorial project
Workers were completing new walkways, kiosks and the main containment display at the Peace Garden 9/11 Memorial this past week. At the center of the memorial are several large steel beams, beams that were once part of the World Trade Center in New York City. The two towering buildings were destroyed in a terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2002.
Until this year the beams sat virtually alone. Now, thanks to an effort spearheaded by Rotary International of Minot and Brandon, Man., the memorial will become a "must see" at the Peace Garden.
"The mission of Rotary is peace development, conflict resolution and solving health issues," said Hevenor. "This really isn't a shrine or a memorial, it's an inspiration for people to say, 'What can we do? How do we make this right? How can we work together?' It's a premier of one country feeling the pain of another country. Let's honor that."
Message of peace
It is the gardens that catch the eye of Peace Garden visitors, but it is the message contained therein that leaves the greatest impression on many. The garden sits smack dab on top of the longest undefended border in the world. While that fact is sometimes lost to U.S. and Canadian visitors among the fantastic displays of color, it symbolizes inspiration for the rest of the world.
"Our international visitors are blown away by this. I've seen foreign visitors from an Eastern Block country with a Berlin Wall concept, stand on the 49th parallel with one foot in Canada and one in the United States. They are emotionally blown away, they really are," said Hevenor. "I just think this place is incredible and more people need to know about it. North Dakota and Manitoba have an opportunity to show this to the world."
Visitors who enter the garden for the first time talk about the experience, often saying how their attitude changed as soon as they entered the garden. The Peace Towers and chapel overlooking the center of the garden take on a special significance. The International Music Camp at the Peace Garden has hosted musicians from 85 different countries.
"I'm amazed at the reaction you see from people," remarked Hevenor. "They read the quotes in the chapel and are invigorated and docile. You can see they are thinking. I know it has changed my life. I can't explain it any other way. The peace concept is the engine that keeps everybody here going. When you look at it from a creation perspective, everything started in a garden, so why not celebrate peace in a garden?"
Conflict Resolution Center
One of the original planning concepts for the Peace Garden in the 1930s was to create a place where people could discuss problems in the world and try and find solutions. Today, as the Peace Garden grows and the message of two friendly countries continues to spread throughout the world, Hevenor has undertaken perhaps the biggest project ever envisioned at the garden.
"The concept is to develop a Conflict Resolution Center. The center spine of the building will be a hall of peace, an opportunity for people to remember people for good deeds, acts of good faith and good works. The center will be a conduit for groups to have discussions," said Hevenor. "Where else should one try to resolve conflicts? If you can take them to a place like this, it's benevolent and breeds and promotes discussion. What an inspiration for the rest of the world."
The proposed Conflict Resolution Center would include a "living" building, a building that could potentially take itself off the energy grid. It would serve as an example of a beautiful building that can sustain itself. Hevenor envisions a center that could potentially host a G-20 or G-8 conference, complete with hotel facilities.
"This is where it needs to happen and why can't it happen in the Midwest?" said Hevenor. "We don't need just the province or the state to support this, but the federal government of the U.S. and Canada to support it."
Manitoba has grasped the potential of the Conflict Resolution Center, identifying it as a priority project for the province. A request of $5.4 million has been forwarded to the North Dakota Legislature, a line item within the park's budget. The identified cost to date for the ambitious project includes $10.9 million for infrastructure within the Peace Garden, $17 million for the center proper and $20 million plus for a hotel. Hevenor said he is searching for an existing hotel chain willing to build at the Peace Garden.
"If you don't dream, you're done," remarked Hevenor. "Really, we're not creating any new dreams, just the meaning that peace cannot really happen unless it happens in all four corners of the world. That's the symbol delivered here. This border? It needs to go, it really does. We're not Americans and Canadians, we're North Americans here. We're in a unique place to all the world, the Peace Garden."