By Maryanne Firth, The Tribune
Sunday, October 20, 2013
WELLAND – Cooks Mills residents now have a place to sit and reflect on the significant history of the Welland hamlet.
A dedication ceremony was held on Saturday to officially unveil the Battle of Cook’s Mills Memorial Peace Garden at the corner of Lyon’s Creek and Doan’s Ridge Rds.
“Today, we not only dedicate these grounds, but also celebrate the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Cook’s Mills,” Adrian Rittner, vice-chair of the Welland 1812 bicentennial committee, told the crowd of more than 100 people who braved heavy rain to attend.
“This is exactly one year prior to the bicentennial date of the last encounter in Niagara during the War of 1812.”
It has been three years since the Welland committee was formed with the common goal of promoting the significant milestone and creating a “long-lasting feature that will remain a legacy,” Rittner said.
“This is a memorial garden and a park that will not only welcome you to a quaint environment, but will offer more — an interpretive walk, a bit of a history lesson on the affairs that happened just along this creek two centuries ago.”
The park provides visitors with a clear view of the creek and battlefield where British forces attacked American soldiers encamped on the south side in October 1814.
The Battle of Cook’s Mills “was the last action of any importance fought in Upper Canada during the War of 1812 to 1814,” Rittner said.
“The war had been continued for exactly 28 months. It also marked the end of the most sternly-contested and bloodiest campaign of the war, which began July 3 of that year and all but completed the devastation of this frontier,” he said.
“This battle was the last link in the campaign for Niagara. Cooks Mills, Canada’s last stance.”
Welland is proud to be a part of the network of more than 20 peace gardens created across the country, said Mayor Barry Sharpe.
It’s location is ideal, he said, acting as a gateway into the eastern boundary of the city.
“It’s nice to make it a pretty place, but it’s much more meaningful when you can design a garden that has a story like this one does,” said landscape designer Darren Schmahl.
“The whole philosophy behind designing this garden was to keep it simple and let the place tell a story.”
The story of the lands will be told more vividly in 2014, when a re-enactment is held at the garden to mark the bicentenary, said Andre Ceci, chair of the Welland 1812 bicentennial committee.
But to make the event a success, the community’s support is needed, he said.
He encouraged those in attendance and the community-at-large to give what they could toward the project.
The committee also needs assistance with the cost to outfit the garden with picnic tables, benches and artifacts, including a replica cannon and rocket launcher, millstones and information panels outlining the history of the area.