Welcome Home Garden: Project Update
One of the ultimate purposes of the Welcome Home Garden is to provide area families, churches and veteran’s organizations with an ideal site for hosting public receptions for returning veterans, missionaries and foreign aid workers. It’s just a way of ensuring that these people receive the welcome they deserve from their community.

The Welcome Home Garden is now listed as a designated charity by the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. This will allow people an opportunity to contribute to various improvement projects currently in the works. Check in with this site in the weeks ahead for more details.

The list of improvements currently under consideration includes the addition of permanent tables and benches and wrought iron entryways saying “Welcome Home”. As most folks know by now, the Garden is located on the lot right behind the old Harrisonburg Municipal Building. Perhaps the most interesting suggestion we’ve received is for a mural on the Northwest wall, just behind the water feature, conveying the unique theme of the Garden.

We’ll be posting additional information about each of these as it becomes available.


The Welcome Home Garden received the 2011 Design Excellence for Landscaping Award from Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance before an overflow crowd at its annual banquet, held on Monday, October 17th at Clementine’s restaurant. From L to R, Tom Clayton of Frazier Associates and Becky Bartells, Chad Layman, Matt Jones, Jesse Bergey and Chris Snoddy of Fine Earth.


There is now a permanent stand in place for the Garden Guestbook, compliments of Sanford Helmuth of Helmuth Builders, and visitors of all ages are adding their names and comments. We’ll be posting pages from the Guestbook from time-to-time, because some of the notes are quite touching.


“Welcome Home Garden” Now Officially Open to the Public

On Saturday, June 25th, scores of people turned out for a special dedication ceremony for Harrisonburg Virginia’s new Welcome Home Garden. To our knowledge it is the only public park of its kind in America. Unlike memorial gardens, this one is a tribute to the present and future, and to the Shenandoah Valley’s long-standing tradition of service to others. The Welcome Home Garden is a living statement of appreciation and support for young men and women returning home from service overseas as soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, missionaries and Peace Corps volunteers.


Ground Breaking occurred in early June. Throughout the construction process people stopped by and offered kind words to the crews. It was quite a job!


The Welcome Home Garden is a gift to the community from Chad Layman of Fine Earth and John Sites of Earthtones. Harrisonburg Mayor Richard Baugh officially accepted this unique new park on behalf of the City.


Chad and John and shared the story of how the project came to be…

John Sites


Keynote Speaker Reverend Dr. John Sloop gave gave an inspiring presentation…

…and a good time was had by all. Many of the folks who turned out had stories of their own to tell!

Food was provided courtesy of the Downtown Dining Alliance. It was absolutely delicious! Chad, John and Kathy Sizemore of Fine Earth served the crowd, and a long line formed to sign the Guest Book…

Welcome Home Garden Dedication Ceremony
welcome-home-dedication-400Saturday, July 25 – 11:00 am

Keynote Speaker: Reverend Dr. John Sloop

Free Refreshments
All are Welcome
Sign the Guest Book!

The Welcome Home Garden is unique, in that it honors two contrasting Valley traditions; missionary service and military service overseas.

In Harrisonburg and Rockingham County there are literally thousands of people who have devoted years of their lives to missionary duties in some of the world’s poorest countries, often risking their lives in an effort to bring hope, relieve suffering and bring peace in times of distress and chaos.

Many thousands more have left loved ones behind in service to their country in time of war.

Together, these two groups signify an extraordinary commitment to community and the well being of others. The fact that these two groups have lived in harmony here for so long is a testament to the unique character of Valley culture.


Harrisonburg’s new Welcome Home Garden is located behind and beside the City’s Municipal Building, near the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market Pavilion.


The event was a huge success, and Fine Earth would like to thank everyone who came out to support our Americans abroad.

Recap coming soon…

Welcome Home Garden Letters
January 12, 2010

Greetings Chad,

Colleen Pendry here, formerly Advantage Realty Management Group, Inc. I hope this message finds you well. I heard a blurb on WSVA this morning regarding your wonderful concept for a welcome home garden. My father was a Korean War Vet and my husband is a Vietnam Vet. We are members of the Harrisonburg Chapter of the Veteran Riders Motorcycle Club and would be very much interested in participating in this project and hope you will agree.
I will look forward to hearing from you soon.

Welcome Home Garden Project


On Tuesday, June 22nd, the Harrisonburg City Council formally and unanimously approved of a permanent site for the Welcome Home Garden. It will be located on the lot immediately behind the Municipal Building on Main Street. The site faces the new Farmers Market Pavillion. Plans are to begin construction this summer, with an opening Dedication Ceremony this November on Veteran’s Day.

See the official design here.

It’s About Time

Two area businessmen and friends, Chad Layman of Fine Earth LLC, and John Sites of Earth Tones, have retained the services of ExcelArts Consulting to assist in the planning processes for a unique gift to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community; The Welcome Home Garden. The process of selecting a suitable site is currently underway. Our goal is to select a site no later than June 30th, 2010.

The Welcome Home Garden will symbolize an important change in public awareness that has taken place in America since the days of Vietnam. Today, people of every political persuasion appreciate the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. Even more importantly, we understand the special challenges veterans face coming home from an often traumatic experience to loved ones they haven’t seen in a long while, and to the task of re-building the friendships, careers and lives they left behind.

This project will be funded entirely by private sources. Public funds will not be solicited for any part. The Welcome Home Garden will serve as a place of permanent tribute and welcome to all sons and daughters of the community returning from overseas service to their country, especially military veterans returning from foreign conflicts such as the current wars in Iraq and Afganistan.

The Welcome Home Garden will include a combination of hardscaping, waterscaping, landscaping, and original art. The actual size and scope of the project will depend in part on the site selected. Design ideas and possibilities will begin appearing on this page once a site is selected.

Plans are also underway for an official dedication of the site on November 11th, 2010, (Veteran’s Day). The date for actual construction is pending, subject to the findings of a comprehensive study, currently underway.

Public Input

Send Us Your Thoughts and Ideas!

Read some of the Letters we’re already received!

We will be inviting public input for every phase of the project, from site selection to design. Up to date information about the project will be available at all times at FineEarthLLC.com.

We’ll also be posting letters and ideas received from the public on this page in the months ahead. Keep checking in and send us your thoughts and ideas.

The artistic challenge our designers will face will be to create a garden that communicates the three themes of Welcome, Appreciation, and Understanding. For this reason, it is anticipated that a key piece will be an original sculpture, commissioned specifically for this project. During the next thirty days we will be in conversation with the Arts Council of the Valley, and others, seeking input on this facet of the project.


In preparation for this announcement, we have consulted individually with a long list of community leaders, and with the staff of the Harrisonburg City Parks and Recreation Department. We thank everyone with whom we have spoken so far for their expressions of support and encouragement, and for their ideas. Based on these early discussions, there appears to be a good chance that a suitable site for this gift can be found on existing Harrisonburg city property.

Here is a short list of the sites that have been suggested to us for consideration so far:

An area adjoining the Harrisonburg Farmers Market Pavilion
Liberty Park
The New Harrisonburg Soccer Complex
Heritage Oaks Golf Course

Additional suggestions are expected. We will keep a current list on this page of sites receiving serious consideration.

For this reason, we are soliciting the Harrisonburg City Council’s input, and the input of the Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation Commission, on the best course to follow in preparing a feasibility study of various city-owned sites.