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Storytelling Garden proposed as complement to Oct. 1 healing garden

A vacant parcel next to the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden soon may be transformed into a companion garden where stories — of the Route 91 Harvest festival and also of joyful events — can be shared.

This is part of an ongoing series observing the two-year anniversary of the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. See all of our coverage here.

Plans are still in development, but construction of what’s being called the Storytelling Garden may begin later this year. It will be located to the immediate north of the Healing Garden and will contain fruit trees, decorative landscape features, a community fire pit and possibly an environmentally friendly building for use by guests and staff.

News of the new public venue comes on the second anniversary of the Route 91 Harvest festival shootings, in which 58 people were killed and more than 800 wounded when a gunman opened fire on fans attending a country music festival on the Strip.

The morning after the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting, Jay Pleggenkuhle and Daniel Perez of Stonerose Landscapes, drew up plans for what became the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, 1015 S. Casino Center Blvd. Built with volunteer labor and donated materials, the garden was finished and dedicated just days after the tragedy.

The Healing Garden features 58 trees, one for each victim, lining a walking path, an oak tree called the Tree of Life, and a remembrance wall. Pleggenkuhle said the Storytelling Garden would complement the Healing Garden but be “its own separate entity.”

In the days following the shooting, hundreds of volunteers gathered to create the Healing Garden. Pleggenkuhle said that experience inspired the idea to create the Storytelling Garden.

“So many people came and wanted to tell their stories about being there that night or what happened. They just needed to talk about it. And there were people showing up to work on the garden who just needed to share their stories as well,” Pleggenkuhle said. “Many stories had to do with the shooting, but there were people who … just had stories of loss, whether it was a divorce or losing a child. That started me thinking that we need a place where people can come and share their stories.”

A few months after the Healing Garden was built on what had been a vacant plot of city-owned land, the city acquired a parcel to the north of the garden, said Tom Perrigo, Las Vegas’ executive director of community development. When Perrigo asked for ideas about what to do with the lot, Pleggenkuhle said he suggested a garden to “create something with a little bit of joy, where people could get to share stories.”

An environmentally friendly building designed by UNLV architecture students also may move to the site after being judged as an entry in a national solar decathlon competition, Perrigo said. That building might serve as a docent center, where garden volunteers can answer visitors’ questions about both gardens and the downtown arts district, Pleggenkuhle said.

“This is where we’re going right now,” Perrigo said, but much of the project is “still preliminary.”

Perrigo said the project is budgeted at $400,000. Construction is expected to start in late November or early December and take about four months.

While the Storytelling Garden is a separate project, “it was definitely born from the Healing Garden,” Pleggenkuhle said. It was “the catalyst that sparked conversation. And there was a need for a (Storytelling Garden), just because we have this horrific loss we shared, and we need to get together and talk about it and console each other and not keep it bottled up.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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