Town still searching for a cemetery |

Town still searching for a cemetery

Geraldine Haldner

A new committee comprised of council members Chuck Ogilby and Diana Donovan and Vail businessman Merv Lapin has visited two of three proposed sites for a memorial park, which would allow families and friends to purchase the right to have a plaque affixed to boulders and rocks or scatter ashes. Lapin first revived the issue in April, when he asked the council to reconsider a memorial park – without grave site, which contributed to the death of a proposed cemetery in Donovan Park in 1995.

“I think it is an important part of making Vail a true community,” says Lapin, who arrived in Vail in 1965. “Vail should have a place for its residents after they die.”

Lapin, who has been reviewing a dozen town-owned sites with Donovan and Ogilby, says the idea is to make the park low-maintenance and low-cost, but appropriate for people memorialized there and comfortable for visitors.

“What I would like to see happen is for this to be financially independent from the town,” he says. “The town would give some money initially to set it up, but then would see people paying enough per person to maintain it. I’d see that money go into an endowment.”

The three sites considered so far are a small clearing near the old Katsos Ranch in East Vail, an area in an Aspen grove near the Spraddle Creek trailhead, and the Streamwalk, a pair of dirt trails on the banks of Gore Creek between Vail Village to Ford Park.

Framed by tall evergreens, the Katsos Ranch parcel is screened from view. Access, however, is a concern.

“You may be dead by the time you get here,” says Councilman Bill Jewitt, referring to people who may be “less spry.”

Access for the handicapped and older park visitors also is a concern at the Spraddle Creek site. Located on a hillside terrace just north of the Main Vail Roundabout, it offers more parking than the Katsos Ranch parcel, but only a narrow hiking trail for access.

“I love this site. I think it works really well, but I don’t want us to be invested unless we know it works,” says Councilman Greg Moffet, pointing out the incline and the number of hairpin turns that would be necessary to make a path wheelchair-accessible.

Lapin says the Spraddle Creek site is his personal favorite, despite some disadvantages. All three sites have an almost equal number of ups and downs, he says.

“The main advantage of Katsos is that is has enough room to last for the foreseeable future and is completely quiet and serene. The stream could be incorporated and it could be a park by itself and wouldn’t impact any nearby neighborhood. But a bridge would have to be built closer to the parking area to make it accessible,” he said.

Spraddle Creek would have “more of a boot hill approach, which makes it more authentic,” Lapin says. “It is in town, but separate, and has a small parking area that could be enlarged. It doesn’t have the life span in terms of being large enough, but it would probably serve the purpose for a number of years.”

Both sites, Lapin says, would likely have to be improved in order to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The third option, not visited by the council, is the Streamwalk, which is handicap-accessible from the Covered Bridge. Access would be easy, but the walk is less serene that the other two sites, says Lapin.

“On the pro side, the Streamwalk is already there and it is easy to get to,” he said. “But it is not very serene and there is not a lot land that is available and it wouldn’t be a stand-along type remembrance park. It doesn’t have parking that is dedicated for it; people would use the village structure, I guess.”

A memorial dedicated to veterans of foreign wars will also be part of the considerations by the cemetery committee once it has been established.

In April, Veteran representatives expressed an interest in installing a trio of flagpoles, along with a memorial plaque, somewhere in Vail.

Ogilby, who says he likes the Spraddle Creek site best, said access is definitely a concern. It and would have to be considered against Spraddle Creek’s idyllic qualities, he says.

“When the creek runs full, it is incredible here,” he says.

Vail’s last attempt at making room for the dead was decisively killed by voters in 1995, when they rejected an award-winning cemetery design centered on a memorial walkway and sunken plaques on the middle bench of Donovan Park. The non-binding referendum, supporters said at the time, died because it would have allowed graves within a residential neighborhood.

Vail’s only cemetery to date is the Ruder family cemetery in West Vail, where a dozen grave sites are surrounded by homes. The newest grave dates to 1973 and the cemetery is no longer in use.

Following the council’s unanimous vote last week to go ahead, Donovan, who has long advocated finding room for Vail’s deceased residents, said she invites comments, concerns or inquiries. She can be reached at 479-1860, Mailbox 7, or via e-mail at

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at

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