Peace Park Labyrinth Project on Track for 2024 Installation

Peace Park Labyrinth Project on Track for 2024 Installation
Photo Courtesy of @folpeacepark Instagram

A project to build an 11-circuit stone labyrinth in Riverside’s Peace Memorial Rose Garden Park is on track for construction to begin in 2024.

Friends of the Labyrinth committee members say they are halfway to reaching their goal thanks to support from several sustaining sponsors and three successful fundraising events this fall.

Riverside residents Hazel Cleary and Ruth Thompson came up with the idea for the labyrinth while walking through the park in 2021. Since then, they’ve established the Friends of the Labyrinth committee, partnered with Riverside Avondale Preservation to help fundraise, and engaged local landscaping expert Ladd Roberts to design the site plan.

“It just took off. It’s almost like kismet,” Thompson said. “It’s almost like it called us to create this labyrinth in the park.”

Located on Park Street across from the Willow Branch Library, the Peace Memorial Rose Garden Park was established in the 1950s to honor Americans who lost their lives in World War II. Through seasons and storms, the garden diminished over time, becoming an overlooked, underutilized green space.

Riverside Avondale Preservation Executive Director Shannon Blankinship said people in the neighborhood are excited to see the park revitalized.

“It’s the desire to do something with what has been an underutilized, very prominent, visible space on a thoroughfare in the neighborhood that has people the most excited,” Blankinship said.

The proposed labyrinth is a replica of the world-famous Chartres, France, labyrinth built in the 13th century. With a 40-foot circumference, the Peace Park version will be virtually the same size and pattern with a rosette in the center to honor the park’s history.

Labyrinth enthusiasts say these historic walking paths are often used as tools to promote overall well-being. Visitors can pray, meditate, engage in deep thought or not think at all.

Blankinship looks to the Riverside Avondale Community Garden across the street as a model for success. “It was a space that previously was a grass lawn and today is a really active community space where we have dozens of gardeners each day,” she said. “People come to that garden and seek that refuge for a variety of reasons, and we’ve seen continued demand for it. I want to see the same thing at the labyrinth: people utilizing the space in whatever way meets their need.”

Macquarie Group, JM Family Enterprises, Southeast Toyota Distributors and the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund gave generously to the project, helping to build and sustain momentum, organizers say.

“We need about $170,000 to put the labyrinth in the ground. We’ve raised about half of that and expect to raise a great deal more before the end of the year,” Cleary said.

The final phase of fundraising will focus almost entirely on grassroots support through the purchase of engraved bricks for the surrounding walkways, ranging from $100 to $400 each.

Cleary says many donors and volunteers supporting the project have a personal connection to labyrinths – like Friends of the Labyrinth committee member Sharon Qualls.

Qualls first learned about labyrinths years ago from close friend Donna Christiansen, who passed away about five years ago. Christiansen traveled with a canvas labyrinth replica and taught others how to engage in mindfulness practices while walking the winding path.

“For years, our group of friends would assist her in taking this labyrinth to yoga studios and churches and other places so people could walk the labyrinth,” Qualls said. “She took it on sort of as her gift or mission to contribute to the world and to give back to others.”

In honor of her friend, Qualls made a donation to the project and looks forward to sharing her love of labyrinths with her grandkids when its complete.

Construction is expected to begin as early as next spring. Once the labyrinth is installed, the Friends of the Labyrinth will fundraise for the landscaping and public art installations in the park. The group will donate the labyrinth to the City of Jacksonville upon completion.

Learn more about the project or make a donation at Donations to Friends Of The Labyrinth are 100% tax deductible and go directly toward the construction of the Labyrinth and future programming.

By Laura Phelps
Resident Community News

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