DUNSEITH Like much of North Dakota, there has been less rainfall than usual at the International Peace Garden in recent weeks. A lack of rainfall, coupled with the increased difficulty of finding summer help, has meant a little less color than some guests would expect at the serene setting on the border.
Nevertheless, the Peace Garden remains a Turtle Mountain treasure.
The entrance to the Peace Garden places the visitor directly on the U.S./Canada border. A stone cairn, the original symbol of the Peace Garden, is placed near the entrance. The cairn bears the inscription: "To God in His Glory. We two nations dedicate this garden and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live we will not take up arms against one another."
This view looks west from near the entrance of the International Peace Garden to the Peace Towers off in the distance. The Peace Towers straddle the U.S./Canadian border.
"It is profound," says Doug Hevenor, chief executive officer of the Peace Garden. "When you meet people here you meet people with controlled borders, weaponry and a military presence. They are just amazed at this. It is amazing. You experience it when you are here."
Today the U.S./Canadian border remains the longest unguarded border in the world. The message is that conflicts can be resolved and that neighbors can be friends. The theme is carried throughout the garden.
"You stand in front of the 9/11 boards and read the names and it is impactful," said Hevenor. "The message here is about creating peace throughout the world."
On the western edge of the Peace Garden stands the Peace Tower, half of it in the United States and half in Canada. A stream flowing through the park marks a portion of the 37th parallel, the division line between the U.S. and Canada. A sunken garden highlights the center portion of the park.
Hevenor acknowledges that the park has had more color in previous years but notes that this year's growing season has several weeks remaining. Many of the Peace Garden flowers did not get planted until late June or early July. Rainfall that has occurred has not been favorable, usually washing away herbicides that were applied only hours previously. To compensate, crews have been making generous use of irrigation.
"We live in a different world up here and we love it. It's drown or drought," said Hevenor. "We are what we are and we are trying awfully hard. We have a lot to see and enjoy. We've had great visitation this summer."
The impact of the Bakken oil field has been felt at the Peace Garden this summer. According to Hevenor the hiring of summer help has been the most challenging of his seven seasons at the garden.
"We are down about 15 people in total staff, but they're giving it their all," said Hevenor. "It is a domino effect of the Bakken. It has really been difficult for us to find a labor force."
Still, the Peace Garden remains an international attraction and Hevenor strives to keep it that way. He is seeking funding sources for infrastructure repairs to keep pace with growth and visitation. The Peace Tower is in need of help too. It is beginning to show its age.
"It is quite an iconic tower, but there is some crumbling and pebbling of the stone on the top of the tower," explained Hevenor. "We are seeking pre-appropriations to get something done. In time we'd probably have to barricade the base of the tower."
The Peace Garden remains the home of the famed International Music Camp and various sports camps. Concerts have been held in the park throughout the summer. The International Game Warden Museum remains popular. The Cafe and Conservatory is an unmatched combination and a new event, the "Octuba Fest", is about to make its debut.
"It is a new event for us for the weekend of October 5th and 6th," said Hevenor. "We'll have music and a Bavarian-type meal, schnitzel and brats."
Almost forgotten among the many features of the Peace Garden is one of the most peaceful sections of the park the campground. It features ample trees, 32 pull-in sites and virtually unlimited space for tenting.
"I want everyone to have a good, safe summer," said Hevenor. "But they should be trucking up here to the Peace Garden! This place has impacted thousands of people's lives."
The International Peace Garden is located 15 miles north of Dunseith, 106 miles from Minot.