Photo by Zoneil Maharaj

A (Healing) Garden Grows in Las Vegas

Dedication ceremony for Route 91 victims’ memorial to be held Friday

On Tuesday morning, the quarter-acre plot of land near Charleston and Casino Center boulevards was flat, barren and dusty. Twenty-four hours later, it was a lush forest in the making.

Dozens of volunteers planted trees and flowers donated by local nurseries. Some painted the just-erected wooden “remembrance wall,” the letters for the word “remembrance” still strewn across the fresh soil. Others hung notes written by volunteers. One read “May our city feel love and peace.” Some were dedicated to specific victims. “For Cameron Robinson, loved and cherished as a son, brother … and friend. We’ll never forget you” read a message in honor of the City of Las Vegas employee who was among the 58 taken away in Sunday’s heinous act.

More notes will be added to the “healing garden,” located at 1015 S Casino Center Blvd., during a dedication ceremony Friday night at 7:30 p.m., held alongside the monthly First Friday street festival.

Photo by Zoneil Maharaj

Landscape designer Jay Pleggenkuhle of Stonerose Landscapes, the architect of the garden, was amazed by the outpouring of support for the project.

Like many, Pleggenkuhle was at a loss Monday. “My partner and I were trying to figure out what we’re going to do for the week. With what happened Sunday night, you can’t go back to business as usual,” he says. That’s when the idea for the healing garden began to grown.

Photo by Zoneil Maharaj

Originally intended as a pop-up, Pleggenkuhle contacted the City of Las Vegas to see if there was a parcel of land they could use. Many City employees were grieving themselves. “They wished there was a park where they could go and sit in,” Pleggenkuhle says. “They wanted it to be more permanent.”

After securing the space in the Arts District, Pleggenkuhle quickly sketched out a design on a napkin. He contacted friends at Star and Moon Valley nurseries. The garden sprouted from there, with Siegfried and Roy donating the “tree of life,” an oak tree at the center of the memorial.

A sketch of the healing garden

On Thursday morning, Capriati Construction was getting ready to pour concrete to build a heart-shaped bench around the tree. Mosaic tile will be added to it, symbolizing the community coming together to piece together and heal its shattered heart.

“The cool thing about the park is it’s being built completely by donations and volunteer efforts,” Pleggenkuhle says. “The main point of the park wasn’t so much the end result but bringing people together for something positive.”

Though the garden was devised Monday afternoon, they didn’t break ground on the site until Wednesday. Pleggenkuhle estimates that hundreds of volunteers have already helped in some way.

Jonah Hamelmann, a UNLV student, was among those volunteers. He had several acquaintances at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. When he heard about the garden, he rounded up some of his fraternity brothers to help. “You’re sitting at home and hearing the news, and you feel so helpless,” the 21-year-old says. “This is just a good thing to do.”

Hamelmann was also shocked by the overwhelming support. “One lady came over and said she couldn’t help because she’s not that strong, but came back with Gatorade and snacks.”

Watching it unfold was Derek Stonebarger, Las Vegas Arts District board president and owner of ReBAR.

“Everyone always talks about how we’re so transient but this event has shown how much community we really have,” Stonebarger says. “Just the amount that people have been donating and giving. It just means so much how this city has come together.”

Vegas Seven