116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Marion soon may have a new “Peace Tree” for the holidays in City Square Park.
The new tree, if bought, wouldn’t be ready until the 2022 holiday season, but planning and fundraising is happening right now.
This year’s Marion Chamber’s Marion Leadership In Action class currently is fundraising for the new tree, which is a 30-foot LED panel that can be programmed to change colors, light patterns and be synced to music.
Chamber President Jill Ackerman said the class currently is doing a letter campaign and making phone calls to help raise money for the tree, which could cost up to $70,000. The group also is asking the Marion City Council to contribute $30,000 for the tree.
“The overall goal is community beautification,” Ackerman said. “We always raise the money this time of year and turn around and make our purchase right around March because that's when the deepest discounts occur. $70,000 is a lot and this is the biggest purchase we’ve ever aimed for.”
Marion’s original Peace Tree, a real tree, was gifted to the city in the 1990s during the Gulf War. It was planted to symbolize “a bright wish for a more peaceful world,” according to the class’ presentation to the city council. The tree has become a main piece of the city’s annual Christmas in The Park event, which began in 1993. Other, smaller trees have taken its place over the last few years since the original tree died.
Last year the chamber and city added light decorations on two of the city’s main roundabouts on Seventh and Sixth Avenues. Lights also line Sixth Avenue as well.
“It’s all grown out of the desire of the community,” Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said. “It all helps draw people to Uptown and helps the businesses. It just creates a happy atmosphere in the city and hopefully creates memories for people too.”
Along with AbouAssaly, the other city council members were supportive of the new Peace Tree idea and were enthusiastic about how it would look in City Square Park, especially when the Uptown Plaza project, which is planned to include an ice-skating rink, is complete.
“It’s about going that extra mile,” Ackerman said. “The city is already working on building beautiful infrastructure so we want to add that extra, holiday public art.”
“It’s also a signal to investors that the community cares how it looks, that we're taking care of our community,” AbouAssaly said. “Investors want to be a part of that and they notice that Marion has momentum and has a positive attitude.”
The chamber and the city already are looking ahead at more holiday lighting opportunities as well after the completion of the Seventh Avenue streetscape project.
“There’s going to be a cool lighting program that’s LED where we can change colors on the north side of Seventh,” Ackerman said. “I think we also want to add lights and do some gateway work in south Marion. I could see lights along South 11th Street and north on 10th Street. Plus, the 29th Avenue bridge would be great for a project too.”
Ackerman said the unofficial deadline to raise the total funds is March, before they would aim to make the purchase.
“Christmas has always been a big deal to me,” she said. “Marion is full of young families so it’s also special to a lot of people here. You can see it when you drive around and see all the decorations people put up.”
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