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Peace Park
A Gandhi quote is painted on the exterior of the Prairie Peace Park visitor center. (Courtesy photo/Russel A. Daniels/Native American Journalists Association)

For the past 12 years, the Prairie Peace Park has promoted the idea that world peace really is possible. So maybe it’s fitting that one of the first steps toward the park’s closing is a massive disarmament.

Last week, volunteers began to dismantle the “Amber Waves of Grain,” a display of 32,000 wooden cones that represented the United States’ nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.

Most of the other sculptures, signs and exhibits will come down after Sept. 11, when the displays will be open to the public for the last time.

Only a 40-foot clay mural and a 12-foot metal sculpture of a globe surrounded by children will remain.

But the park grounds, just north of the Crete/Pleasant Dale exit on Interstate 80, will continue to advance the idea of peace.

Another non-profit organization, Global Country World Peace, is buying the land and plans to build a “Peace Palace” on the site.

Prairie Peace Park leaders made the hard decision to sell because of declining attendance in the past two years, said Don Tilley, president of the Praire Peace Park.

A shift in the country’s political and ideological climate might be to blame, park leaders said. But they also said a local grassroots effort may not be enough to sustain this type of attraction.

“This world needs dreamers,” said Tom Scherer, a board member of the park. “Don and his wife are dreamers. And many creative people grabbed onto that dream and gave it their time and their sweat and their support.

“But the people with funding, the influential people, they have not grabbed onto it.”

The park had a good run, said longtime supporter Anita Fussell, and spread its message to thousands of people, especially children who loved to scamper through its mazes and trails.

“But to be successful, the park needs to attract people from other states. It needs to have plenty of publicity. And we hope the new people, with their larger resources, will be able to do that.”

Fussell said the park’s legacy will continue through its roughly 40 displays, which will be given to local churches, schools and other organizations.

But the closing is still hard for those who cared for it for so long.

The park was unique because it did not advocate a particular approach toward achieving peace, Tilley said.

Instead, it mostly used art and sculpture to encourage the concepts of compassion and self-understanding, and speak out against prejudice, hate, exploitation, greed and violence.

And many of the displays were light-hearted, such as empty bomb shells filled with geraniums and metal flowers shaped like radioactivity symbols, or “Golden-Rads.”

Eric Michener, local director of Global Country World Peace, said that when his group takes possession of the site in October, only the method of encouraging peace will change, not the goal.

Global Country World Peace has its headquarters in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, a town incorporated in 2001 to accompany the Maharishi University of Management near Fairfield, Iowa.

Both the town and school were developed as centers for transcendental meditation, a practice introduced to the western world by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, also known as the Beatle’s former meditation guru.

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Michener said his group plans to build a two-story, 12,000-square-foot building that will be used to teach transcendental meditation and a wide range of other classes.

Global County World Peace also has plans to build 3,000 other peace palaces in the United States.

The idea is that people influence each other, and if people can find peace within themselves, they help others become peaceful, he explained.

“The peace park was a fantastic organization that expressed a vision for peace, the need for peace and what happens when you don’t have peace,” Michener said.

“What we want to do is enliven the underlying field of consciousness, the consciousness of peace.”

Reach Kendra Waltke at 473-7303 or kwaltke@journalstar.com.

If you go

People wanting to visit the Prairie Peace Park, just north of the Crete/Pleasant Dale exit on Interstate 80, can visit from 1-8 p.m. Sept. 3-5 and Sept. 8-11.

A special gathering for reflections and refreshments will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 11, the park’s last day.

A public auction will be held at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 29 for the remaining items at the site.

Details are available by calling the Prairie Peace Park at (402) 466-6622.

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