SLC’s Peace Gardens won’t be expanding anytime soon

This West Side attraction remains a gem of the city and an artful tribute to world peace, but some want to expand and all want to polish it.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) International Peace Gardens in Jordan Park on Friday, June 3, 2022. Opened in 1952, the gardens will not be expanding to include additional countries any time soon.

The International Peace Gardens, Salt Lake City’s salute to the global community, have been a staple of beauty for 70 years.

Lush flowers, stunning art, a towering replica of the Matterhorn.

But anyone expecting a New World Order at the Westside attraction anytime soon has only to wait, according to Lee Bollwinkel, the city’s director of parks.

“The Peace Gardens are full,” said Bollwinkel. “There is no more space”

Representatives of countries such as Argentina and Azerbaijan want to be included in the Monument to World Peace on the Jordan River, but will not hoist their flags there in the foreseeable future due to lack of space.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) International Peace Gardens in Jordan Park on Friday, June 3, 2022.

The Gardens have not welcomed a new nation for more than 20 years. The last country to get a spot there was Tonga, which was inaugurated in 2000, according to Peace Gardens International Academy, a nonprofit advocacy group.

“How do you go in there and subdivide and create more space for countries,” said Bollwinkel, “when there are countries that were founded earlier?”

There doesn’t seem to be much appetite at City Hall to pay for a review of the gardens, at least not this year. The application was not approved by an audit committee or the mayor’s office for this year’s capital improvement budget.

City council members could decide to fund the roughly $250,000 project by the Sept. 1 deadline to determine which capital projects they will fund, but that money would have to come from another project.

Even if the Council supported the proposal, enlargement would not be just around the corner. Bollwinkel said the department would need to submit an additional application for funding to carry out the work after the review was completed and the plan developed. He estimates it will be at least four or five years before his team sees construction money.

Glendale Community Council chair Turner Bitton said his board is in the process of starting a group called Friends of Glendale Parks. The organization will hold its first meeting in August and will focus on raising money and volunteering to support neighborhood parks.

He said plans are for the new group to also submit a capital improvement application to the city to pay for an appraisal of the gardens and potentially fund work such as repairing water features that have fallen into disrepair.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) International Peace Gardens in Jordan Park on Friday, June 3, 2022.

A walk through the gardens shows signs of wear. There’s stagnant, greasy water in the pond at the foot of the Matterhorn – representing Switzerland – and exposed screw heads of rotted wood on a weathered bridge in the Japanese Garden.

Park officials removed some artwork for safekeeping and repairs after thieves tried to steal it.

Bitton said he wants to see security improvements at the park to protect it from vandalism but is leaving it up to the city to decide how best to go about it.

If it’s true that the gardens are operating at full capacity, Bitton said he wants to look at opportunities to expand them, possibly into neighboring Jordan Park.

The Peace Gardens, he said, reflect Glendale’s diversity and inclusion.

“We have people from all over the world who call our little neighborhood home,” he said, “and the Peace Gardens are just a really remarkable way of celebrating that cultural history.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) International Peace Gardens in Jordan Park on Friday, June 3, 2022.

First-year councilor Alejandro Puy, a native of Argentina who wants representation for the South American country, said he would also like to see the territory expanded.

For now, though, he’s focused on maintaining what’s already there.

This month he secured a commitment from Home Depot to help with some of the deferred maintenance at the gardens located in his Westside neighborhood. He also wants to use his council position to increase security at the park.

“It really is a gem of Salt Lake City,” he said, “and I really encourage anyone in Salt Lake City who doesn’t know it exists to visit.” SLC’s Peace Gardens won’t be expanding anytime soon

Joel McCord

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