Walnut Park continues to get a makeover despite a lack of city funding thanks to a coalition of Petaluma nonprofits that has informally adopted the historic but run-down public space near downtown Petaluma.
The Petaluma Service Alliance has gotten permission to erect an 8-foot granite obelisk in the park that will bear the word peace in 12 different languages.
This is just the latest in a series of improvements that began last fall when Petaluma Valley Rotary installed a bench in the park in honor of Ron Flagg, a Rotarian and veteran who passed away in 2012.
At that time, Rotarian Maureen Frances took note of the need for other park improvements, such as painting old, chipped benches and replacing worn-out plantings with new landscaping.
She enlisted the Petaluma Service Alliance, a coalition of local service clubs that she helped to start.
In December, the group's sense of mission was heightened when the more-than 40-year-old memorial to fallen Vietnam Veterans was stolen from the park.
The loss of the bronze plaque galvanized community interest in the memorial and the park, and thanks to community donations, the plaque was replaced in May.
The service alliance re-painted benches and installed red, white and blue landscaping around the gazebo near the plaque.
The peace pole will also be installed near the new veterans' memorial. Granite for the obelisk and steel for the plaques were both donated by two Santa Rosa companies. Those donations total more than $5,000.
"The word peace is universally recognized, that's why we chose it," Frances said.
The alliance plans to pour the base for the monument soon and the monument should be dedicated within the month.
After the peace pole is completed, the alliance hopes to replace the decrepit sidewalks in the park, which have become an obstacle for elderly and disabled people trying to enjoy the park. They are developing plans to sell personalized bricks that would be laid on the park's pathways as a fundraiser, but this plan will need to be approved by city officials, probably in August.
The alliance also plans to continue caring for the landscaping in the park, especially since the city continues to be low on manpower and funding for such projects.
"I think the park will be looking pretty good," Frances said.