Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

New Open Space Sacred Place Dedicated in Joplin MO

Posted on 05/29/14


The Butterfly Garden and Overlook at Cunningham Park in Joplin, MO, is an Open Space Sacred Place where individuals may work through the pain of grieving for a loved one or something lost.  Conceived as a place of healing in response to the devastating tornado of May 2011 killing 161 people, the garden gives form to the Four Tasks which help people move into the next phase of life after experiencing a loss, and each are represented as architectural and natural elements through the gardens.

  • The first task, “Accepting the Reality of Loss,” begins as visitors pass through the portal of the lost home, the front door.
  • The path takes you on a journey around the site, allowing for Task Two “Processing the Pain of Grief.”  Areas with a bench and journal act as destinations and offer a sacred space in nature to move towards
  • Task Three, “Adjust to a World without What was Lost.”  Visitors are encouraged to write and reflect in the journals.
  • The penciled outline of the homes that used to stand on the site represent all homes erased by the storm and story plaques educate future generation on the destruction, acts of heroism, survival  and the Miracle of the Human Spirit to provide the first part of Task Four, “an Enduring Connection to What was Lost.”  The balance of Task Four, “We move on but do not forget,” is created by a unifying circle of with butterfly attracting flowers which provide a feeling of surround within the garden, an encompassing sense of boundary, safety and enclosure.


Additional features continue the symbolism and metaphor.  Thirty-eight segments of the waterwall represent the minutes the tornado was on the ground.  A void at minute 7 signifies the moment the tornado struck Cunningham Park. The 2 individual water features represent this void in its broken form and then put back together, scarred but whole again.

The Butterfly Garden and Overlook at Cunningham Park is part of the Landscapes of Resilience Project; read more about those who created it here.  Photos and text by Drury University.

1 Comment
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    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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