International Peace Garden

Take a walk in the park

As the snow melts and the weather gets warmer, Canadians’ thoughts start to drift to the great outdoors, especially after being cooped up all winter. It might be too early to go swimming or go camping, but most would agree it’s the perfect weather for a nice walk in the garden. For Saskatchewan residents, the International Peace Garden is the place to be when the sun starts shining and the buds start blooming. With over 150,000 planted flowers, the 9.46-square-kilometre park has a lot to offer the senses. Walking the acreage alone is worth exploring over a few days.

Some history

Located on the international border between Canada and the United States, the International Peace Garden was founded on July 14, 1932. Founder and English immigrant, Henry Moore, had gone to a gardening conference in Boston, Massachusetts where he was thrilled to see the Canadians and Americans getting along so well. Moore found it so inspiring he decided to create a garden to celebrate the peace between both countries.

After searching for the perfect location—right on the Canadian-American border—Moore chose the Turtle Mountain region, bordering Manitoba and North Dakota. The location was ideal for a few reasons, one being the natural elevation of the region juxtaposed with the surrounding prairie landscape. Another attractive quality was the aspen forest at the northern part of the garden, allowing for abundant wildlife. Finally, the garden is located 45 miles north of Rugby, North Dakota, the geographical centre of North America, which puts it right near the heart.    

With the support of the Canadian and U.S. federal governments, followed by the governments of Manitoba and North Dakota, Moore and his team created two tracks of land, totalling 2400 acres. The international border runs right down the centre, so you can stand with one foot in each country.

To this day, the garden’s initial vision remains. “It’s a place where Canadians and Americans can get together and celebrate the good relationship they have in the tranquility of a garden,” says Doug Hevenor, CEO.

More than flowers

In addition to a series of beautiful flower beds, the International Peace Garden offers two auditoriums, a museum, memorials, an interpretive centre and two 120-foot-high peace towers.

The interpretive centre is particularly noteworthy because it presents an opportunity for International Peace Garden to take advantage of wet and/or cold weather. “Usually, the garden is open from May to September,” explains Hevenor. “By building the interpretive space with classrooms, a modest library and cafe, we can have people here year-round. It’s a hub to expand revenue generation and a reason to drive to the Peace Garden when it’s -45°C.” The interpretive centre also allows the facility to tell a lot of stories through displays. “We can talk about indigenous plants that First Nations used,” Hevenor reasons, “and what the Europeans brought that changed the way the plants were used. We can explain forest and livestock management.”
Another destination is the 9/11 memorial, brought to the garden in June of 2002. When the twin towers fell, Manitoba Premier Doer wanted to send a message of support to North Dakota Governor Hoeven and to America, that Canadians felt with them that day. The memorial has concrete and 10 steel girders from the towers, positioned like rubble.

Always growing

The International Peace Garden is always worth visiting because it constantly changes; after all, a garden is never really done. Future plans, for example, include a Conflict Resolution Centre on the north side of the garden (for research and practice). There is also talk of a Hall of Peace to as a lasting memorial to those Canadians and Americans who have passed on—fallen soldiers, heroes or great citizens who did something worthwhile for their communities.

As the spring and summer approach, remember to keep the International Peace Gardens in mind as a vacation destination. Not only is the Turtle Mountain region a beautiful and accommodating place for tourists, but the Garden is a worthwhile place to go and reflect on our country, the good-natured relationship we have with our southern neighbours and the peace we have enjoyed for decades.