Herald editorial board
Situated on the U.S.-Canada border, the International Peace Garden opened in 1932. Throughout its history, it has served a specific purpose - to signify and strengthen the bond between two nations with a long border and so much in common.
Prominent at the 2,400-acre International Peace Garden is an 18-foot clock, comprised of 2,500 flowers, a cactus conservatory and a visitor center. A bell at the Peace Chapel chimes every 15 minutes.
Approximately 50,000 visitors come to the International Peace Garden each year. It is an oasis with so much beauty and symbolism.
But two issues there must be addressed.
First, it is falling into disrepair - an unfortunate circumstance since its intent is to signify the strength of relations between Canada and the United States. A commitment from the North Dakota Legislature should help reduce a significant deferred maintenance backlog at the site.
According to North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department Director Melissa Baker, the funding also will improve visitor facilities and "create spaces for the types of meetings and events that embody the spirit of peace."
And second, it does not - as Gov. Doug Burgum recently told the Herald's editorial board - offer acknowledgement of the impact and history of American Indians in North Dakota. That's an oversight, and one that should be corrected as new state dollars are dedicated to improve the International Peace Garden.
"(Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford) and I are trying to get to all places with state assets and determine what shape they're in," Burgum said. "The Peace Garden was in rough shape."
North Dakota's Legislature has dedicated $5 million to fund myriad improvements at the site. Manitoba has committed $3 million so far and, potentially, more next year.
"We got there," Burgum said of the process to secure funding. "We got both (North Dakota and Manitoba) to commit some dollars, and now we need to start working to envision how that can be an upgrade."
Burgum has pushed hard for projects that will have lasting effects and benefit not only North Dakotans but the people who visit here, too. His vision of a Theodore Roosevelt Library in western North Dakota helped convince the Legislature to approve $50 million in state dollars, provided they are matched by $100 million in private funds.
Now, the Peace Garden is on his mind.
"I think there is an opportunity," he said. "If you go to the chapel at the end you have quotes from great leaders from all over the world, but there is zero presence from tribal leaders, first nations, nothing. Part of what we're doing is tribal engagement. ... When you do a refresh, if we're talking about peace, how do we also include that aspect? That is part of the region's history that is really not acknowledged (at the Peace Garden). That's an opportunity now that they have got some funding."
The Garden signifies peace and friendship between the U.S. and Canada, as well as North Dakota and Manitoba.
Shouldn't it also signify peace between American Indian nations and non-indiginous peoples that live here? As public dollars are allocated to renovate the site, now is the time to fix this oversight.