Tomorrow is Independence Day, the day when Americans mark the independence they won after the Revolutionary War. But just a few years after that, the young nation fought another war with Great Britain, the War of 1812. Because Canada was a colony of Great Britain, it was swept into the fighting.
The War of 1812 was the last time the United States and Canada fought one another.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and arts councils, cultural organizations, heritage organizations and community groups in both the United States and Canada got together to discuss how to commemorate the event.
“They were interested in the bicentennial, but they didn’t want to tell a war story,” said Arlene White, executive director of the Binational Alliance. “They wanted to talk about the 200 years of peace between Canada and the United States.”
The result is the Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail,which links gardens from both sides of the border.
The Binational Alliance, an economic and tourism group, is working with community groups on the project. The Peace Garden Trail is designed to attract international visitors as well as residents of this historically-significant cross-border region.
A Peace Garden can be a new garden or an existing garden. The requirements include:
- Have an 1812 connection.
- Have at least 400 feet of activity space where the community can come together.
- Be free and open to the public.
Beyond that, community groups can develop their garden to meet the needs of their community.
“We don’t dictate the design,” White said. The theme or focus can be anything from vegetables to flowers to medicinal plants to heritage to sculpture to a labyrinth. The garden can have multiple stories to tell: It can be a historical site, an architectural site and a heritage site as well as being a public garden.
“This is something the communities just ran with,” White said. “There’s something very special about a garden that brings people together.”
The Peace Gardens include:
- Black Rock Heritage Garden – Buffalo, New York
- Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens - Buffalo, New York
- Jane C. Burdette & Valentine Family Memorial Peace Garden – Victor, New York
- Commander Robert H. Barclay Peace Garden – Colchester (Essex), Ontario
- Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden – Toronto, Ontario
- Fairfield Peace Garden, Thamesville, Ontario
- Fort Covington – Amherstburg, Ontario
- Forest Lawn Cemetery – Buffalo, New York
- Francois Baby Peace Garden - Windsor Ontario
- Grimsby Peace Garden – Grimsby, Ontario
- Hull Family Home & Farmstead – Lancaster, New York
- Kings Navy Yard Park – Amherstburg, Ontario
- Leamington Peace Garden – Leamington, Ontario
- Lewiston Bicentennial Peace Garden – Lewiston, New York
- Mather Park – Fort Erie, Ontario
- Murphy Orchards – Burt, New York
- Niagara University Peace Garden - Niagara University, New York
- Old Fort Erie Visitor Centre Peace Garden – Fort Erie, Ontario
- Reif Estate Winery Sensory Garden, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
- Sackets Harbor War of 1812 Peace Garden – Sackets Harbor, New York
- Serenity Peace Garden – Colchester, Ontario
- St. Marys Memory Garden – St. Mary’s, Georgia
- Tecumseh Peace Garden – Tecumseh, Ontario
- Youngstown 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden – Youngstown, New York
Gardens have been dedicated as Peace Gardens starting in 2010, and more dedication ceremonies are planned. This is a legacy project that will continue to grow and flourish beyond 2014, the anniversary of the end of the War of 1812.
“There’s no end to it now,” White said. “That’s what’s nice.”