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July 16, 2018
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A seed of thought grows into a peace garden: Burton garden completed

  • Rotarians work hard on the Burton Avenue Peace Garden. Irene Hilsendager

By: Irene Hilsendager and Wulff Reinhold
July 6, 2018

The idea for a peace garden or park in Rohnert Park took seed during Wulff Reinhold’s preparations for becoming president of the Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati in 2009 and now that idea has come to fruition as the garden is slated to be completed later this month.

As a president-elect, Wulff learned about Rotary International’s commitment to Peace, World Understanding and Conflict Resolution; now known as one of Rotary’s Six Areas of Focus. 

Reinhold found that many clubs throughout the world made a tangible statement of supporting peace by creating peace gardens or peace parks in their communities. He thought it would be a great idea to have a small peace garden somewhere in Rohnert Park. During his club presidency in 2010-2011, Wulff’s board of directors supported the idea and even earmarked some funds towards the creation of such a park. However, finding an appropriate public space proved to be a bit of a challenge, yet the idea lingered on. 

As his Rotary career progressed and he was selected as governor for District 5130, wife Paula and Reinhold attended the Rotary World Peace Conference, held in January of 2016 in Ontario, California. There, they learned more about Rotary’s emphasis on peace and it renewed his interest in making a peace-promoting statement somewhere in Rohnert Park and/or Cotati.  

With representatives of the City of Rohnert Park now members of our club, discussions began as to where a landscape rehabilitation project could turn into a Rotary peace garden or park. 

During Reinhold’s term as Rotary Governor in 2016-2017, Paula, was the official lieutenant governor and by then had really set her sights on making this idea a reality.  

The overgrown ivy landscaping to the south of the Burton Recreation Center, whom all of Rohnert Park knew as the first community center, was selected as the perfect rehabilitation project. Knowing this was to be a community project, they partnered with the City of Rohnert Park and enlisted the help of the sister club, the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati, as well as the Rotaract Club of Southern Sonoma County and the Rotaract Club of Sonoma State University. Rotaract is a Rotary sponsored club for students or young professionals, ages 18-30.  

They also secured a financially supportive partnership with Stearns Home Loans. These principal partnerships came together to make a Rotary Community Peace Garden a reality.

The City of Rohnert Park arranged to tear our all of the ivy and do some initial hardscape molding. Then some friends of Rotary donated their time to further mold the hardscape and create walking paths. Over the course of several weeks, volunteers from all of the partner organizations came together to plant over 500 plants, provide irrigation and cover the plantings in bark mulch.  

A rough estimate shows that over 2,000 labor hours have been donated to date.

Still pending are the arrival and installation of a few more soft scape items, including two more olive trees and a Hiroshima tree, as well as several hardscape items, including four park benches and a four—sided Peace Pole, declaring “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in eight different languages. 

The Hiroshima tree is a special tree, grown from seeds of trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. They are now symbolic trees of peace and friendship

Upon completion, anticipated to be sometime in July, a formal dedication will be scheduled. The Rotary Community Peace Garden/Park is envisioned to be a place of relaxation, quiet reflection and thoughtful contemplation on the ideas of Positive Peace.

Future plans include installation of a peace monument and additional peace markers throughout the park. This is a reminder of how we all must work together for peace for all citizens.

“We are saving the world, one person at a time.” so said

Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”