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Demolition of Peace Garden tower starts

The International Peace Garden near Dunseith, ND on Thursday July 23, 2015. (Grand Forks Herald/ Joshua Komer)

Demolition of the peace tower at the International Peace Garden began Wednesday and there's no guarantee it will be replaced.

The peace symbol—not the two-fingered V sign, but the four finger-like pillars on the peace garden grounds—had begun to crumble from moisture damage.

Built in 1982 to mark the garden's 50th anniversary, its four concrete columns straddle the Canada-U.S. border, representing people from the four corners of the Earth.

The 121-foot-tall towers were supposed to last a century, but moisture penetrated the concrete and the towers began to deteriorate in 2011.

"It's your classic case of gets wet, absorbs moisture, freezes, expands, cracks and the cracks grow," said Garry Enns, International Peace Garden CEO.

"It should have been able to withstand the elements. Its design and material used in construction were not appropriate."

The Peace Garden board would like to replace it but needs funding. To kick-start ideas, a design competition was held with winners selected last summer. The winning entry, a sort of twisting 21st century tepee-like structure, was from GPP Architecture of Winnipeg.

Enns said the contest winner is not the winner of the contract, however. That has not been decided. The contest was intended to energize creative juices and attract public support.

It first needs a budget. The project has $1 million from the North Dakota government, but nothing from the Manitoba government.

The North Dakota government originally agreed to spend $1 million to repair the peace tower. When that wasn't deemed possible, it allowed the money to stand for a replacement, provided the funds are at least matched. Enns said the matching doesn't necessarily have to come from government.

"There have been people who say (the Peace Garden) are perfectly fine without a peace tower," said Enns. "There are some who aren't that strongly of the view that the garden would be incomplete without one."

He isn't one of them.

"I think it's actually interesting, the timing in the 21st century with the sensitivity around the thing we tenuously call peace. It may have a very different (architectural) interpretation versus what it was in the 1930s and 1940s."

A budget of $8 to $10 million has been tossed around, but that's only the estimate of what it would cost to build the GPP Architecture design, Enns said.

The board will meet in the next couple of months to decide what action to take next.

Demolition is expected to take one to two weeks. The original plan was to crush the concrete material and use it to surfacing pathways. However, the material has been found inappropriate. Instead, a huge hole will be dug in the ground to bury the concrete. The site will be returned to a grassy condition. The cost of demolition is $200,000.