Railroad District Peace Fence celebrates first anniversary

The first anniversary of the Peace Fence was celebrated Sunday on Mother's Day.

The event began at 9 a.m. with Dennis Dunleavy playing the bagpipes. The Peace Choir performed several songs and Louise Pare from the Unitarian Universalist church read the Mother's Day Proclamation written in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe.

Many people may think of Mother's Day in the United States as just a holiday to give flowers and go out to brunch, but it was originally founded as a day of peace for mothers after the American Civil War.

The Peace Fence is the brainchild of Ashland resident Jean Bakewell. Bakewell got the idea of decorating the fence in March 2007 while having dinner with friends not long after her brother died.

"Six people in six weeks ran with the concept and had panels ready to be shown for the first time on Mother's Day last year," said Bakewell. The Peace Fence originated with 63 panels; this year it has grown to 108 panels, making the chain link fence along the railroad tracks a symbol of hope and beauty. Although the original panels from the Peace Fence were taken down in January to prevent weather damage, 20 of them have been repaired to appear on the fence again this spring.

The centerpiece of the Peace Fence is a twelve-by-six-foot panel created by Vietnam Veterans in Oakland, Calif. Along with their panel, the Veterans sent a letter stating that creating the panel "was therapeutic and healing and joyful to make."

More than 170 Ashland school children participated in making panels for the Peace Fence this year.

"We really pushed to get kids involved this time," said Nancy Parker, one of the original organizers. "The oldest panel-contributor to the fence is eighty-five and the youngest was five-months-old," said Bakewell. "We even have a panel sent all the way from Norway which says, 'You Have Friends in Norway' in Norwegian."

sponsoring the Peace Fence, The Lithia Artisan's Market helps defray the costs of supplies and maintenance. Other local contributors include Ashland Awnings, who donated canvas and strapping materials; Ashland Lumber gave discounts on supplies and lumber and the Briscoe Art Wing made space available for students and others to paint their visions of peace in a centralized location. Many of the artists who have studios at Briscoe helped get the panels ready for the fence.

The Peace Fence is located along the railroad tracks, parallel to A Street in Ashland's Railroad District from 4th Street to 6th Street. For more information, to see photos, get directions or to learn how to make a donation to the Peace Fence, log on to or contact Jean Bakewell at 482-1802.

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