Those who visit the Gardens at Gantz this year might find it a more peaceful, calming experience.

Those who visit the Gardens at Gantz this year might find it a more peaceful, calming experience.

It's not that the gardens weren't peaceful before, said Gloria Hartung, Gardens at Gantz education specialist. But Hartung hopes that the recent installation of a labyrinth will both draw visitors to the park and allow for self-reflection.

"First of all, a labyrinth is not a maze," Hartung said, describing a labyrinth's circular, serpentine path. For one thing, a labyrinth is flat, and has no false paths. The one and only path will lead a person to the labyrinth's center. Religious and spiritual tradition says those who walk the labyrinth will derive personal blessings.

"It's kind of a spiritual tool," Hartung said. "There are labyrinths all over the earth. They go back 5,000, 7,000 years."

South America's Nazca lines are now thought to be a type of labyrinth, according to Hartung. Churches in the middle ages used labyrinths as a stand-in for holy pilgrimages.

"Some people walk a labyrinth and say prayers. A lot of them are connected to churches."

Like most area labyrinths, the Gantz labyrinth is based on one at Chartres Cathedral in France, built in about 1200. Hartung, who started working at Gantz as a volunteer in the late 1980s and was hired full-time in 1995, said she's wanted a labyrinth in the gardens for a long time.

"I've always wanted one," she said. "We thought that it would be a benefit for the people in the community. This is pretty much a passive park. People come and walk their dogs here and bring their kids. We have a path that goes around the creek. People come here and read. It's a very peaceful kind of place."

The plan for the labyrinth really took off, however, after Grove City urban forester Jodee Lowe joined the push for an herbal grove.

"We had trees in the herb garden itself, but we took them out of the raised beds because as the trees were getting bigger, the roots were tearing up the walls," she said. "We decided that we still wanted herbal trees so we decided to start an herbal grove."

Lowe and volunteers did research to determine what herbal trees and shrubs to include in the grove. Landscape architect Jim Dziatkowics of engineering firm EMH&T stepped in and designed the new area of the garden, which includes the grove as a ring surrounding the labyrinth.

The project cost Grove City about $213,000. The volunteers pledged an initial donation of $15,000 and are making periodic payments to the city to help offset the cost, parks and recreation director Kim Conrad said.

Though the labyrinth itself was completed just before Thanksgiving 2010, the grove is still in the process of being planted and the signs for both the grove and the labyrinth are yet to be installed.

"It's nice now, but it's going to be even better when people know what the plants are," Lowe said.

A grand opening for the new section of the Gardens at Gantz is scheduled for June 5, which will also celebrate the garden's 20th anniversary.