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February 22, 2020
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Peace Park at Rohnert Park’s Burton Center

  • Rotary members gathered behind the "Peace Pole" located in the Peace Park at the Burton Recreation Center. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Irene Hilsendager
June 7, 2019

On May 29 there was a formal dedication of the Rotary Community Park at 7421 Burton Ave. in Rohnert Park. The park is the fruition and genuine example of a partnership between the Rotary Clubs of Rohnert Park-Cotati and Rancho Cotati, the City of Rohnert Park, Stearns Home Loans, the Rotary International Foundation and several other generous donors to provide a garden space of serenity and reflection to the community with hope that it educates, inspires and encourages a commitment to peace, tolerance and world understanding for all who visit this serene park.

Rotarians from both clubs gave blood, sweat and tears to this project. Many hot days and under rainy skies, you would find Rotarians laboring to remove the roots of ivy to be pulled up and removed after the city had used big machinery to take off the massive berms, ivy and snails so that the rotary clubs could get on their hands and knees and make it into a workable piece of dirt. Many people had different visions when it was started but through the help of architects and city workers, it came to appear it would become the garden of serenity.

Conflict and violence affect millions of people each year. Half of those killed in conflict are children and more than 90 percent are civilians. The Rotary Clubs refuse to accept conflict as a way of life. Accordingly, Rotarians around the globe initiate, fund and support projects as the Rohnert Park Peace Park, which teaches and encourages world understanding and provides communities with the skills and desire to resolve conflicts. 

Through the Rotary’s service projects, peace fellowships and scholarships, Rotarians take action to address the underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education and unequal distributions of resources.

No matter how you want to describe this geographic and spiritual location, the Rohnert Park Peace Park is a perfect place to gather, to meet and to experience the promise of peace created in a mere two-year plan. We hope this park will offer peace and friendship between the resident of Rohnert Park, visitors and the Rotarians. This place will offer a picturesque area with beautiful landscaping, non-pollinating and non-fruiting olive trees that were donated and another tree donated, a slip of a Hibakiymoko tree from Hiroshima, Japan that withstood the terrible bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 and is now being shipped around the world to bring peace. 

The main objective in Rotary is service-in the community, in the workplace and throughout the world. Rotarians develop community service projects that address many of today’s critical issues, such as children at risk, poverty and hunger, the environment, illiteracy and violence. They also support programs for youth, educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers and other professionals and vocational and career development.

The Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati was initially started in April 1977. The club’s first president was Robert Teller, a Sonoma State University professor. The club’s first project was to build and install a proper sign to identify Rancho Cotate High School and to plant a row of young redwood trees. The city was so pleased they asked members to help plant redwood trees along Rohnert Park Expressway, which was done. The club grew and another club was chartered in May of 2007 which became the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati.

Contributions by both clubs to each of the Cotati and Rohnert Park communities in the last forty years have been many and included several Xeriscape landscaping projects, park benches, high school scholarships, kitchen fixtures for the Boys & Girls Club, playground refurbishing, dictionaries for all local third graders, computer labs for community and senior center. Supplemental weekend food programs for elementary schools, helping senior assistance program and various neighborhood beautification projects. In addition, both clubs and local Rotarians have been involved in direct assistance with Polio Plus, Rotoplast which is cleft lip and palate repair, helping with Thomas Page Academy gardens, obtaining a global grant for telemedicine, collaborating with a sister Rotary district in Mexico and Adopt-A-Village projects in Uganda, Africa.

Rotary Clubs mentor the youth in our communities, also sponsoring Interact clubs at Rancho Cotate and Technology High Schools and middle schools. Young adults are mentored as well with both clubs sponsoring a university-based Rotaract Club at SSU and a community-based club of young professionals called the Rotaract Club of Southern Sonoma County. District 5130 stretches from Petaluma to Crescent City and includes six counties. There are 46 clubs and over 2,500 Rotarians in District 5130.

Rotary unites community leaders worldwide to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world. There are 167 countries worldwide with approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belonging to more than 33,000 Rotary Clubs.

The local Rotary Clubs invites everyone to visit the Peace Park and read some of the inspiring notes placed throughout the park. In the center of the park is a peace pole that in four different languages says, “May peace prevail on earth.” Another signage says, “If you want to end the war, then instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending tanks, send pens and instead of sending soldiers, send teachers.” This was written by a 17-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate, Malala Yousafzai.

There are four benches placed in the park to sit and be at peace and gaze at all of the beautiful lavender plants and other interesting flowers. Another signage says, the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of wellbeing. This certainly pertains to Rotarian members. 

There is one lone yellow rose when entering the park that is a Love and Peace Rose-a hybrid tea rose from the Russian River Rose Company. This rose varietal is special because one of its parents is the famed “Peace” rose, so named to commemorate the end of World War II. Bred by M. Meilland in France, the peace rose’s development was interrupted by the war. It was sent to the United States for completion. The rose won AARS honors in 1946; the same day the peace treaty was signed with Japan.