International Peace Garden

8/29/2010  As the Devils Lake area fades in our rear-view mirror, we continued west on US-2. At Rugby, which bills itself as the geographic center of North America, we stopped for a few minutes for pictures at the monument the community erected to mark the spot. Oh boy!

It turns out Rugby is only approximately the center of the continent... at best, perhaps within 15 miles or so. And even the U.S. Geological Survey doesn't care enough to give any point near here offical status. But any time you can pose around a notable monument for a travelogue photo... well, you're doing alright.

North out of Rugby about 45 miles is the Canadian border and the International Peace Garden. Since we're driving almost right by we wanted to check it out.

The IPG straddles the U.S./Canada border on US-281 north of Dunseith, ND. In fact, the entrance to the facility sits precisely on the border between the U.S. Customs station and the Canadian Customs station -- the entrance road actually lies in Canada and the road out lies in the U.S. 

Built on land donated by the State of North Dakota and the Province of Manitoba, the IPG was conceived in the 1920's and dedicated in 1932. from the IPG website:
At this time, North America was caught up in the bitter grip of the great depression.  While funds were short, labor was not.  In 1934 the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps, under the supervision of the National Park Service was engaged. They fenced the United States acreage, cleared bush land, built lagoons, and constructed the first building, the Lodge, made of native stone from North Dakota and logs from the Riding Mountain area in Manitoba.
Unknowingly, we arrived on the last day of Metisfest -- a music festival celebrating the culture of the Metis people. I hadn't heard of the Metis before this... a little research found that they're one of the three recognized aboriginal peoples of Canada, mostly the offspring of unions between native Indians and Europeans, mostly French. Since it was the last day of the festival we were too late to attend any event, but the feel I got from what I heard was that Metis music is similar to bluegrass or folk music.

Due to the festival, the campground was full. But they did have space in the overflow area and we could drycamp there for just $14 for the night. And so we did.

Much of the area is left natural and wooded, and a couple man-made lakes dot the landscape. A formal garden stretches for almost 3/4 mile symettrically along the border and is the must-see attraction of the IPG. We spent a good portion of the afternoon wandering through reflecting pools, dazzlling floral displays, and monuments. It's a strange place in that it's located here because of the border... but when you're here the border simply evaporates... it doesn't matter a whit.

While we enjoyed our visit, it's clear there's a shortage of money (weeds in beds and grass, broken sidewalks and stairs, etc.) to keep the place really glowing. The IPG is operated as a non-profit organization and while there's some financial assistance from North Dakota and Manitoba (and occasional assistance for capital projects from the Federal Governments), the majority of it's operating funds come from private donations and admission fees. I'm sure being located where it is... so far from hoards of people (the closest large city is Winnipeg, 200 miles away) doesn't help. And the long Winter at this latitude (49º North) keeps the growing season very short.

The purpose of the IPG is noble. The border between Canada and the U.S. is the worlds longest unfortified border. The peace that's endured between these two nations is notable and an example for the rest of the world. Borders divide people... but here, in this place, the border dissolves and the people are one.

Although we never officially entered Canada (didn't go through Canadian Customs), we did have to go through U.S. Customs in order to re-enter our home country. Hmmm. The Customs Officer decided she needed to come aboard the bus-house... told us not to move from our seats... and wandered through opening cabinets, drawers, the fridge... before letting us proceed. I guess we should be happy she didn't want to dig through the storage bays too.

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