Peace Park Labyrinth will increase mindfulness in Riverside

Site Plan for Labyrinth at Peace Memorial Rose Garden Park
Site Plan for Labyrinth at Peace Memorial Rose Garden Park

A group of Riverside residents hopes the installation of a classic labyrinth will turn a neglected corner of their neighborhood into a space for introspection and education. The Friends of the Peace Park Labyrinth unveiled their plan to revitalize the Peace Memorial Rose Garden Park during the 2022 Riverside Avondale Garden Tour. The site sits across Park St. from the Willowbranch Library, between Mallory and Cherry streets.

The project began last summer, when Hazel Cleary and Ruth Thompson were taking a walk in the neighborhood. “We realized that park was really underutilized,” said Hazel Cleary, who lives nearby. “It was a peace park and we looked into why, and we thought it would be nice to bring it back to life.”

“Peace Memorial Rose Garden is the official name,” Thompson said. “In the 1950s, after WWII, they planted peace roses and then they planted some trees with markers to commemorate sons who died in the war. They planted 200 rose bushes and the Garden Club of Jacksonville took care of them. Ten years ago, there was only one rose bush left.”

Thompson and Cleary recruited artist Brittany Webber, accountant Ann Burt, and educator Sarah Sharp. They began the process of meeting with city officials and representatives of Riverside Avondale Preservation.

“Hazel said we need a landscape designer,” said Burt. “And I just happened to pick up the Ortega Resident and there was an article about Ladd (Roberts)’s company.”

Roberts’ design features a 40-foot-wide wheelchair-accessible 11-circuit labyrinth, with a rosette in the center as a nod to the park’s history. Leading to the labyrinth are three brick paths, which will feature names of donors to the project. The Dolores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund has pledged $25,000 toward the labyrinth.

Unlike a maze, which is designed to be a puzzle, a labyrinth has one entrance and one end point, with continuous pathways between. The Friends of the Peace Park Labyrinth have based their design on a classic 9th century labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France. “We wanted it to conform to the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator guidelines so that the park would be listed,” Cleary said.

Sarah Sharpe, Brittany Webber, Hazel Cleary, Ruth Thompson, Ann Burt, and Ladd Roberts
Sarah Sharpe, Brittany Webber, Hazel Cleary, Ruth Thompson, Ann Burt, and Ladd Roberts

“It’s the gold standard of labyrinths,” Thompson added.

While labyrinths have been installed in churches, they are not strictly religious symbols. Jacksonville has several labyrinths across the city, including installations at the University of North Florida, Fleet Landing Senior Living Community, and the Unitarian Universalist Church.

“A labyrinth turns people inward,” Thompson said. “And then from that inward turning they come out and they say it’s more creative for the community. There’s so much noise in our society, the labyrinth can welcome people from any background. It’s a meditative space.”

Brittany Webber is a local artist who is working to design how the space will function, and is already planning pre-construction events at the site. “We’re planning events in a way that speaks to that community aspect – getting people out into the park, getting people used to being in that space and utilizing it in a way you don’t currently see in that park. There’s one sad little bench and some dead trees.”

Sarah Sharp, an educator who recently relocated to Jacksonville from Philadelphia, is developing cross-discipline, cross-cultural educational opportunities for all ages, centered around this ancient meditative tool. “Labyrinths are all over the world,” Sharp said. “They can help families in Jacksonville to look out, to look globally.” She envisions field trips from local schools and programming partnerships with Willowbranch Library.

For more information on the project, visit the Friends of the Peace Park Labyrinth at or on Instagram @folpeacepark.

By Windy Taylor
Resident Community News

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