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New Paltz 101: Peace Park

Peace Park in New Paltz, with the peace pole in the foreground and Japanese sculpture behind.
Peace Park in New Paltz, with the peace pole in the foreground and Japanese sculpture behind.
Terence P Ward

Peace Park occupies a gently sloping triangle of greenscape bordered by Hasbrouck and Plattekill Avenues and the parking lot adjacent to New Paltz Village Hall and the Department of Public Works. A stone's throw from the larger Hasbrouck Park, Peace Park was dedicated in 1994 and has had several additions to its landscape since.

The idea for the park was spearheaded by Shash Broxon, described in newspapers at the time as a “local peacenik” who worked to plant a “peace pole” on the land, which was unnamed at the time. Peace poles were described as an Iroquois tradition, and accounts of the park's opening ceremony refer to children burying toy weapons at the pole's base. Attendees were also invited to add items and wishes written on paper to the hole during the dedication.

The peace pole – in fact a wooden obelisk, eleven feet tall – was inscribed with “peace” in eleven different languages, including Muncee-Lenape, a language which organizers claimed had never before been inscribed on a monument in the United States. Its location was determined with the use of a dowsing rod, and the area was ritually cleansed by local Pagans prior to the invocation and opening ceremony.

The park's atmosphere became more Asian in feel in 2004, when the Village of New Paltz installed a sculpture donated by residents of Osa, Japan, the village's sister city. The piece, which is representative of the landscape in Osa, is surrounded by a Japanese garden which makes use of the existing rock outcroppings on the property. The sculpture and garden are more visually prominent than the peace pole, which on the opposite end of the park.

The park's benches and large grassy area are used by students and others looking for a quiet place to sit, read, nap, or converse. Not surprisingly Peace Park has also been used for peace protests over the years, a fact which no doubt pleases Broxon and other organizers of this public space.

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