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St. Marys celebrates link with Canada
The site of one of the last battles of the War of 1812 will soon be the southernmost point of the Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail that commemorates the close bond between Canada and the United States since the conflict ended nearly two centuries ago.

Canadian and American flags will fly side-by-side after a ceremony July Fourth to dedicate the St. Marys Peace Garden, located in the city's downtown waterfront district, next to Oak Grove Cemetery.

Alexandria Kearns, of St. Marys, led the effort after she received an email from a tourist who mentioned the creation of binational peace gardens in Canada and the northern United States. The Binational Alliance was created in 2000 to promote and expand tourism between the two nations, which share the world's longest undefended border.

But it takes more than a willingness to promote international tourism to participate in the program, Kearns said.

"To become a member of the Peace Garden Trail, a city must have a clear and compelling connection to the War of 1812 and the joint history of the United States and Canada," she said.

St. Marys qualifies for the designation because it is the site of the "Forgotten Invasion," where 600 British troops overwhelmed 130 American soldiers at an outpost in the Point Peter area.

The battle was fought Jan. 13, 1815, five days after Gen. Andrew Jackson defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans, which many consider the formal end to the conflict, even though it occurred after the Treaty of Ghent ended the war.

Kearns began contacting Canadian and American officials in early January to gauge interest in establishing a peace garden in St. Marys.

"I believe that there was some initial skepticism on the part of a few people, but I continued to provide (St. Marys) City Council with facts and figures, research and so forth," Kearns said.

City officials quickly realized the designation could increase tourism and lead to potential development.

"Our city's connection to Canada through the Acadians, the War of 1812 and Canada's position as our primary source of international tourists made us a perfect candidate to join the Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail," Kearns said.

Robert Pengelly, consul and manager of political and economic relations in the Atlanta office of the Consulate General of Canada, and Arlene White, executive director of the Binational Alliance, will be among the dignitaries at the ceremony at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, will attend a private reception Tuesday to welcome Pengelly and White to the area.

State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, St. Marys City Council members and a Navy color guard will also participate.

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