For Rotary, sadness at cancellation of annual event

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Waterton Lakes Superintendent Ifan Thomas, left, and former Glacier Park superintendent Chas Cartwright participate in a hands across the border ceremony in Glacier in this file photo.

It’s a sad week for International Peace Park Rotarians.

The annual celebration of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was canceled because of the Kenow Fire burning in Waterton and the subsequent closure of the park.

It’s the first time the event has been canceled since 1944, said Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Association President Marshall Gingery, a Rotarian from Helena. The ‘44 cancellation was due to World War II.

In 1931, Rotarians from the U.S. and Canada met at the Prince of Wales Hotel for a goodwill meeting. While the organizers only expected a small gathering of Rotarian’s from both side of the border, the response was enthusiastic for the opportunity to stay in a first class hotel during the depression was a great luxury. Nearly 100 members from seven Rotary Cubs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana participated.

During that meeting, the two groups decided to lobby for an international peace park that would celebrate the longstanding goodwill between the two countries.

After lobbying both governments, Canada and the United States approved the establishment of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park which was dedicated on June 18, 1932.

Rotarians have been meeting annually, alternating between Montana and Canada ever since.

Gingery himself was a longtime Park Service employee, he said. He grew up in Glacier and became a trail crew foreman and seasonal park ranger. The bulk of his career took him to many other parks, including Acadia, Harper’s Ferry, Mammoth Cave and Blue Ridge. He rose to become regional director of the Department of Interior out of Philadelphia and was also a liaison to the White House. He rounded out his career as the Deputy Superintendent of Grand Teton.

He said his best job may have been that early trail crew gig in Glacier.

“I knew at the end of the day what we’d accomplished and what he hadn’t accomplished,” he said.

He said the organization over the years has supported projects in both parks. This year they will look to help support the Wheeler Cabin complex restoration at the head of Lake McDonald.

The group also promotes and encourages peace parks across the globe. They also have a “hands across the border” ceremony at Chief Mountain Customs, where they line up on the border and shake hands across it, as a show of goodwill.

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