Path through history continues with Batavia Peace Garden

Dec 4, 2017

BATAVIA — Barb Toal didn’t need to look far to find inspiration 10 years ago when Paula Savage, founder of the International Peace Garden Foundation, asked her to create a Peace Garden in Batavia.

“She showed me pictures of gardens around the world,” Toal said. “There was one in Italy at the Colosseum. I’d been there. Another was in Ireland, and I’d been there. So I agreed to pursue this phantom idea.”

Toal didn’t know how she’d to it, but she knew Batavia had the perfect spot.

“We had the Holland Land Office Museum, which is the crossroads of Western New York, and the Paolo Busti Park just east of the Museum,” Toal said.

Toal formed a committee with Savage, which has grown today to include Ellen Bachorski, Bernita Scoins, Dona Palmer, Carol Grasso, Art and Donna Mruczek, Don and Louise Wallace, Cathy Winding and Cindy Egleston.

When the committee thought the estimate for Phase I of the garden would blow the project out of the water, the community stepped forth.

O-at-Ka Milk made a pledge; Chapin was a contributor; Bill Kistner helped with the foundation for the globe; local businesses and prominent families bought 16 of the 20 flags to be displayed; Larry Toal and Son dug holes; and Tony Scalia donated all the concrete for flag poles.

“When we needed storage space, Potter Lumber donated a shed,” Toal said. “When Genesee County Chamber of Commerce moved to their new facility, they gave us permission to use the old visitors’ center. This is not our garden – it is the community’s. We can’t toot the horn enough for this community.”

“Through the years, the local volunteers who stepped in and offered their services and special skills have ensured our growth and success,” Savage said. “Something this big takes an entire village.”

It was that kind of support which completed Phase I of the Peace Garden and has continued on through Phase II which will be dedicated in May 2018 for the 10th anniversary of Batavia’s Peace Garden.

Phase II has extended the garden past the Walnut Street bridge, into a crescent of land behind the gazebo overlooking Tonawanda Creek behind the Engine House and court house. A connecting path with footprints invites tourists to continue from the flags, around a pump house to the gazebo and park.

“We have become one of the premiere tourist destinations for Genesee County,” Toal said.

Batavia’s Peace Garden has become part of Governor Cuomo’s Path Through History tourism campaign, Savage said.

Completing Phase II of the Peace Garden included the planting of flowering trees in memory of loved ones in the park past the gazebo, Arthur Mruczek said. The committee will continue to sell bricks, stepping stones and engraved plaques in honor or in memory of a loved one, or to commemorate a special occasion. In the spring, an arbor will be erected as an entrance to the park. It is hoped the brick walkway will be incorporated into the bike trail which the county is planning.

Batavia’s Peace Garden has flags of every nation which now has a Peace Garden – of which the latest is Mexico. The Mexican flag was purchased by the El Rancho Restaurant in Batavia and will be the first flag in Phase II, as there is no more room for flags in Phase I, Savage said.

As is the tradition, a country who receives a Peace Garden then nominates a country to receive the next one, and Mexico chose South Korea, Savage said. Savage will be attending the ceremony, which will take place in the fall of 2018 in Suncheon, South Korea.

From the very beginning, community support for the Peace Garden has been overwhelming, Toal said. The fire and police departments have each purchased a bench for Phase II. Ron Burroughs offered to pour cement and charge only for the materials, Toal said.

The committee has enjoyed the participation of the community’s youth, Art Mruczek said. Youth have supported the Peace Garden by participating in Day of Caring. Batavia High School seniors did community service by spring cleaning in the gardens, and some even painted the park benches with artwork. The U.S. Gypsum mowed and spread mulch, and donations of plants came from Harrington’s, Delre’s and Pudgie’s, as well as many individuals.

For information on the garden, go to www.bataviapeacegarden.org, or by calling (585) 813-3336 or 344-8830.

By Virginia Kropf, Batavia Daily News

Category: Community