With a nod of approval (no official vote could be taken) from the Legislature's Human Services Committee today, Marilyn Drilling and Barb Toal are ready to push forward with plans for a peace garden next to the Holland Land Office Museum.
They need to raise $55,000 in the next 11 months, and Drilling said a key component of the fundraising campaign will include a dinner with Terry Anderson as the keynote speaker.
Anderson, who was held captive in Lebanon for more than 6 years, from 1985 to 1991, hasn't visited his hometown of Batavia in 19 years.
He didn't want to make it 20, said Drilling, executive director of HLOM, and he agreed to support the peace garden effort at no cost to the organizers.
"Who better to talk about peace than a man who spent so much of his wonderful life behind locked doors," Drilling said.
The dinner is planned for Sept. 9.
The county owns the land next to the museum and must approve any new use of the strip of real estate hard against the Tonawanda Creek. To grant approval, the Legislature must receive a finished plan, which includes at least the potential of approvals from the City of Batavia and the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as contract language from County Attorney Charles Zambito and final engineering plans.
Without that, the Human Services Committee couldn't even poll members for consensus, but it was clear there were no objections from members for pushing forward with the project.
"Of all the people I've heard talk about it, I don't think I've heard anybody say they're not in favor of it," said Hollis Upson. "It's very interesting the amount of outpouring and number of volunteers who support it. It's been vary contagious."
Drilling is concerned that without a sense that the county supports the project, it will impede fundraising, which needs to proceed now.
There are 20 countries with official Peace Gardens, which is an international effort to promote and recognize peace among nations. The Peace Garden Foundation promotes the effort and was founded by current president Paula Savage, a resident and native of Batavia. The Batavia garden would be an honorary, not official, member. It would feature the 20 flags of the countries with official gardens.
Each country would be represented by its flag, and flag poles would be sold for donations of about $2,500 each, according to Drilling.
Drilling sees the peace garden as a natural extension of HLOM, helping to bring in tourists.
Toal, who chairs the local Peace Garden Committee, said it's a natural fit for Batavia and the strong interest in the region from War of 1812 enthusiasts.
Batavia, she said, served as a key defense in stopping the British advance after Buffalo was destroyed. Many tourists interested in the War of 1812 make the trip to Batavia, she said, and the peace garden at HLOM would be an appropriate destination point.
No county funds would be used in building and maintaining the peace garden, which is why, Drilling said, it's important to get started on fundraising now.