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St. Marys joins international link
The Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail is nearly 1,000 miles longer.

The nation's newest peace garden was dedicated in St. Marys Wednesday in a ceremony at the city's historic waterfront district.

The garden in St. Marys is the tenth to be dedicated this year and one of 60 that will be dedicated in Canada and the United States by 2014. It's also the first garden to be established in a region outside the southern Great Lakes region.

The peace gardens are being created as a way to commemorate 200 years of peace between the two nations since the War of 1812, which is what led organizers to include the site of the last battle of the war to be included in the trail system.

The battle at Point Peter, which began Jan. 11, 1815, and ended four days later, is commemorated in a display at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum in downtown St. Marys.

Among the dignitaries at the ceremony was Robert Pengelly, consul in the Atlanta office for the Consulate General of Canada.

Pengelly said the timing for the dedication was appropriate because both nations share birthdays days apart. Canada celebrated its 145th birthday on July 1.

Pengelly described the shared history of both nations and the Canadian link to St. Marys, where French-speaking Acadians fled from the province of Nova Scotia after they were deported by the British.

Oak Grove Cemetery in St. Marys, adjacent to the new peace garden, has many Acadian grave sites.

Pengelly also discussed the current bond between Canada and Georgia.

"Today there is a different kind of migration south, with over 400,000 Canadians visiting the state of Georgia each year taking in the sights, sounds, beaches and meeting with their American friends and family," he said.

The two nations share the world's longest undefended border, but it was a flash point for conflict 200 years ago, he said.

"Today, there is a very different story at our border, with approximately $1.9 billion worth of goods and services crossing each and every day -- a million dollars a minute -- directly benefitting both our countries in many ways," he said.

Canada is also the largest foreign trading partner with Georgia. In fact, Pengelly said Gov. Nathan Deal was in Canada Wednesday to strengthen economic ties.

Alex Kearns, of St. Marys, spearheaded the project after learning about the peace gardens being created in communities throughout the Great Lakes region.

"St. Marys now stands as the southernmost point on the Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail, a trail that extends from Ontario, Canada to Georgia," she said.

Canada is the state's No. 1 market for foreign tourism in Georgia and is forecast to account for 31 percent of the tourism growth through 2016, according to the state Department of Economic Development.

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