In the wake of a tragic shooting at Central Peninsula Hospital several years ago a Peace Garden was created to remember those who perished during that incident as well as many of the pioneers and loved ones of many of the community’s members who have passed on. “A place reserved for connecting with Nature. A place that provides serenity and renewal.” Hope for those visiting a patient or just a quiet place to meditate. The dedication of the first Peace Garden was attended by community members and many words of appreciation were spoken at that ceremony. The original Peace Garden was moved just behind the Soldotna Library to accommodate the expansion of the spine clinic at CPH, with plans for connecting trails from landscape architect Nancy Casey, who designed the garden. In an interview with the Dispatch last week at the garden site Casey and landscaper Steve Booth told of the recent thefts of the shrubs that have been occurring, “We started missing plants about a month ago, when Steve Booth the contractor who maintains the garden started noticing them missing from the strawberry bed along with about four or five individual shrubs that were dug up and stolen. It’s sad and not only left a hole in the ground but a hole in our hearts to see those plants yanked out with no regard to feelings with which they were planted. We’ll have to pay to replace them and it’ll be expensive,” said Casey.
While to some it may appear to be a minor victimless crime, in reality the value of the plants places the theft in a felony category according to Booth, “These were expensive shrubs to purchase and were all planted with Davis Bacon wages which doubles the cost of them and the expense of maintaining them all year for several years brings their value to very expensive,” he said. Booth believes they were taken for personal use, “It’s happened before at other sites, I think people are taking them home and planting them in their yard. It usually happens shortly after they’ve been planted because they come out easy before they get rooted in. But these people know what they are doing and how to dig a root ball, so it’s not just vandalism they are not just being yanked out,” said Booth. A report has been filed with the Soldotna Police Department and anyone with information is asked to call the SPD at 262-4455. Anonymous tips may also be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 283-8477
Plans are being made to replace the stolen plants and shrubs, but Casey and Booth say it’s been very disheartening, “This has become a very sacred place for a lot of people, and it’s a crime to the entire community. You can’t steal peace, it can only be found and given.”