Vail eyes ‘virtual cemetery’
The old joke in Vail, where there’s no cemetery, is that the only way to get buried is in an avalanche.And that still holds true. In a resort town whose residents like to live life to its fullest, there’s nowhere to go when they die.But if the proposed Vail Memorial Park in East Vail, which is currently being reviewed by town planning staff, meets with ultimate approval from the town council, earthly cremains may at least have a place to be sprinkled like a spring snowstorm.”I think it’s an important part of making Vail a true community,” says former town council member Merv Lapin, a Vail resident since 1966.Lapin first brought the concept of Vail Memorial Park to the council’s attention last summer when it was apparent Vail founder Pete Seibert was dying from cancer. Seibert’s ashes have since reportedly been mixed with silver iodide and used for cloud seeding during a particularly productive March storm.But the concept of a park-like place to remember the important and everyday people in Vail’s colorful 40-year past took root. A task force was formed and a 13.5-acre site on the former Katsos sheep ranch, now town-owned open space near East Vail’s I-70 interchange, was selected.While there will be no full-casket burials, inscriptions will be sold on boulders, stone benches and rock walls, and ashes will be spread or buried in biodegradable urns.”The purpose is not really a cemetery. It’s really a place to celebrate the history of Vail and the people who made it part of their lives,” says Lapin.The costs will be much less than an actual burial between $1,000 and $2,000 and will be based on a three-tiered structure, according to task force member and current council member Diana Donovan.Vail Memorial Park will charge the lowest prices for Town of Vail residents (five-year minimum consecutive residency), followed by Eagle County residents and non-resident property owners (five-year minimum consecutive residency) and the highest prices for anyone else.Donovan says such a pricing structure places an emphasis on actual participation in the community over property ownership or periodic vacationing in the area, although those people will be accommodated as well.”It seems to be a human need in a community to be memorialized, and this will also become a history of Vail,” Donovan says. “The whole goal, though, is to have this look really, really natural.”That means no geraniums, potted plants or unnatural materials of any kind, she says, and inscriptions will be small and subtle, with a person’s name, birth and death dates and perhaps a small religious symbol, but no other verbiage.”There won’t be any of the ‘I was the greatest thing that happened to Vail’ type of thing,” says Donovan, who has lived in Vail since the early 1960s.She acknowledges that some people’s religious beliefs prevent them from being cremated, so they may be buried elsewhere but memorialized at Vail Memorial Park.On the south side of Gore Creek and nestled up against the steep cliffs of East Vail, the park’s location will make it somewhat difficult to get to, but also places it in an area where there are no nearby neighbors.A proposal for a full-burial cemetery on Donovan’s namesake park near Vail’s Matterhorn neighborhood was shot down by voters in the early 1990s, mostly because of its proximity to homes.Vail Memorial Park’s relative isolation and ban on full burial make it a much easier sell, Donovan says.”When you inter people, you lock up that piece of land forever for that body and burial is not the environmentally conscious thing to do,” she says.Parking for the park would be right off the I-70 interchange on the north side of Big Horn Road, Donovan says large groups attending memorials would be responsible for arranging buses to the parking area, and golf carts would be available for anyone who can’t walk down the bike path and across a foot bridge spanning Gore Creek.The task force has asked for $50,000 in seed money, but ultimately hopes the park will be financially self-sufficient through private donations, fundraising and the sale of inscriptions, memorial sites and cremation burial sites.A non-profit board of directors would be formed from the current task force, with the council appointing future members.The group hopes to win approval by June, with fundraising and initial sales beginning in August and a dedication sometime next year.For more information, call Donovan at (970) 476-1860 ext. 7.
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