Along the border between Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia stands the International Peace Arch.
The arch stands 67 feet high, and is proudly rooted, one side in American soil, the other in Canadian. Straddling the longest undefended boundary in the world, the Peace Arch was dedicated in 1921, and was the first Monument built and dedicated to world peace.
The American side of the arch is inscribed: “Children of a Common Mother.” The Canadian side is inscribed: “Dwelling Together in Unity.” Spanning both sides of the border is the inscription: “May These Gates Never be Closed.”
Although most visitors to the Peace Arch are crossing the border, you can visit the park without doing so. You can walk around and enjoy one side of the park or the other, but are not permitted to walk outside the park boundaries or the other country’s side without clearing Customs. Customs personnel from both countries monitor Peace Arch Park.
The park covers 40 acres, with beautiful gardens that host events both organized and spontaneous: family gatherings, picnics, wedding and civic events. It boasts over half a million yearly visitors.
I grew up in a small town about an hour’s drive south of the border, so the Peace Arch was a part of my childhood. While I was too young to understand the political and social significance of it, I always enjoyed playing in the park, driving by it, and the excitement of passing through Customs and Immigrations and entering “another country.”
With summer looming, Peace Arch Park is an easy visit for those within driving distance of the border.