VAIL - From a spot in the sunshine on a quiet, open meadow to a shady area that's nestled against a hillside, the Vail Memorial Park has a place for everyone to be remembered.
The Vail Memorial Park has come a long way since it was just an idea being bounced around at Vail Town Council meetings several years ago. Since its dedication in 2004, about 90 memorials have been created in the East Vail park.
It's something former council member and longtime Vail resident Diana Donovan is truly proud of - she said the park has come a long way and she thinks it's a beautiful asset for the town of Vail.
"It's a place to be memorialized," Donovan said. "It's a quiet, little secluded spot."
Donovan was on the Town Council when the park was just an idea, and she initially opposed the project because she didn't think it belonged on the 11 acres of open space where it was being proposed. When she realized she was in the minority, she decided to get involved to make sure the park could complement that space and enhance it.
She wanted to it be a natural fit with the surroundings, and she said the result has exceeded her expectations.
"It looks natural - it doesn't look artificial at all," Donovan said.
Donovan, a member of the Memorial Park foundation's board, attributes part of the park's success to its director, Chip Domke. She said Domke has put so much into making the park the serene place it has become.
Some of Vail's earliest residents, like Donovan and fellow Memorial Park board member Daphne Slevin, got behind the project that Domke said really helps make Vail a well-rounded community.
Domke, who came to Vail in 1986, said everybody thought they would live forever back then. Now that some of the early Vail residents realize that's not the case, it's great to see the community support the park, he said.
"It's been a unique process to go through something from the absolute start to where it is now," Domke said. "It's very rewarding."
Domke said he was surprised to see the different people who wanted memorials in Vail. From Vail and Eagle County residents to those who simply enjoy visiting Vail, the park is a memorial spot for anyone who feels connected to Vail, he said - such as two men with memorials there who died while skiing the East Vail Chutes. They weren't residents, but they loved Vail, Domke said.
"There's a 2-month-old baby there, all the way up to someone who has been (in Vail) their entire life," Domke said.
There are many pre-purchasers, too, such as Donovan, who bought stones for herself, her husband and their children.
Donovan likes that the park is on town-owned land that won't turn into condominiums some day. The park has a 99-year lease, and the land is designated as open space.
"It's a safe spot in this valley, which is rare," Donovan said. "It's always sort of protected by the town."
Domke said one of the highlights of the park is its diversity. There are five areas within the park where people can buy memorials, including a sunny meadow, a shady hillside and grottos surrounded by spruce and aspen trees. The park really offers a place for just about anyone, he said.
"There are four or five real distinct feelings out there," Domke said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Vail Memorial Park opened in 2004 and is a place where anyone feeling a connection to Vail can purchase memorials. The nonprofit foundation offers the only memorial park within the town. Visit www.vailmemorialpark.org for more information about pricing and directions to the park.