Much planning went into the Park, which is situated on eleven acres of open space in East Vail. “We wanted to keep the site as natural as possible,” says Diana Donovan, a member of one of Vail’s founding families, who sits on the board of the Vail Memorial Park Foundation. Donovan, who came to Vail in 1965, has been involved in every phase of the Park’s creation. “The Park has been very successful,” she says. “There are now 200 memorials. To meet increasing demand, we added a second phase in 2013, and a third opened this spring.”
The Park is accessible from the Vail Recreation Path through a rustic arch, which welcomes visitors to a world of trees, meadows, wetlands and wildflowers. In the winter when the Park is blanketed in snow, part of Vail’s cross-country ski loop goes through the grounds.
Donovan describes the Park as “a spiritual home for people who have lived in Vail.” It is also the final resting place chosen by visitors who have become more attached to the Vail Valley with every stay. In the words of board member Pam Brandmeyer, “The Park was designed to reflect the culture and the values of the community. It is a nature-driven, low-key, serene place in which to celebrate loved ones.” Nestled in the lovely landscape are areas of flagstones, stone walls, boulders and benches which can all be engraved with dedications.
“We wanted it to look as if the boulders had just rolled down the cliff,” explains Donovan. And it does. Its paths and places of reflection have been carefully designed, so that as Donovan says, “It does not look like a graveyard.” There is even a small plaza for pets.
Ashes can be buried in the Park, but not caskets. For nine years, administrator Farnham St. John has been the public face of the park. He oversees the space with a keen eye to sustainability, and he extends a warm welcome to those seeking to find a stone, a boulder or a bench for a loved one or for themselves. He also engraves the memorial dedications. These range from the spiritual to the wry and whimsical. After all, people are drawn to Vail to have fun in the mountains, and that playfulness often comes through in the words on the stones. St. John sees the Park as a living place. “I love meeting people,” he says. “In the summer, bikers stop in for picnics on their way down from Vail Pass and families wander in off the recreation path. In the winter we see cross-country skiers.”
“We are thrilled at how well the Park has turned out,” says board chair Carl Walker, who served for 15 years as pastor of Vail’s Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church. He emphasizes that the Park is totally non-sectarian. And, he suggests choosing one’s own memorial stone to make things easier for loved ones.
So, perhaps it is time for a walk in the Park. You may very well find your spiritual home.