Vail formalizes naming process to honor influential community members |

Vail formalizes naming process to honor influential community members

The town set a process and set of criteria for the future naming of places in Vail

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail serve as just one example of many of the places in town named after influential community members. Looking ahead, the town has set a process to guide the future naming of places, landmarks and more around Vail.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily archive

From Seibert Circle to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and Dobson Ice Arena, you don’t have to look far in Vail to find places named after some of the town’s most influential individuals.  

In order to continue this practice of memorializing its trailblazers, the Vail Town Council passed a resolution to establish a formal process and set of criteria for the naming of town-owned parks, buildings, plazas, streets and other landmarks.

“There’s so many places in town that are named special names, and we just thought we needed a formal process,” said Lori Barnes, Vail’s director of library services and member of the Cultural Heritage Committee, at the Feb. 7 Town Council meeting.

As passed, the naming process kicks off with nominations. These nominations can be made at any time by any members of the public and are evaluated on a set of criteria, which include questions such as:

  • Does the naming inspire future generations to celebrate a historical figure, place, event, or other instance of historical or cultural significance?
  • Does the naming honor a fallen community member in recognition of their life’s passion?
  • Is there a circumstance where a renaming is warranted to address historical accuracy or a circumstance of dishonor?

Ultimately these questions are targeted to get to an ongoing town mission “to preserve, enrich, and sustain the cultural and historic legacy of Vail to fulfill its vision to connect Vail’s past, present and future to create a legacy that inspires future generations to celebrate and sustain our community, its history, and heritage,” as the resolution frames it.

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Kathleen Halloran, the town’s deputy town manager, said that the criterion focuses on three main opportunities for naming. First, “to honor Vail citizens who have had (a) measurable, positive impact to Vail or a significant presence in Vail.”

Second, to “memorialize a fallen community member,” she said.

And finally, to make “considerations for circumstances where we may need to rename a town-owned property,” Halloran added.

These nominations will be evaluated by the town’s Cultural Heritage Committee — which is comprised of representatives from several town departments as well as one Town Council member. This committee will then draft a recommendation for Town Council, which can approve, deny or request further information from the committee.

Nominators are also allowed to resubmit a more detailed application three months after a denial. But, if that revised application is rejected again, the nominator will be suspended from making any further nominations for at least a year.

Ultimately, Halloran said this was just a start to “have something on the books to be able to evaluate these proposed namings,” but something that will be refined into the future.

Through the process of passing the resolution — which first came before the council on Feb. 7 and was passed on March 21 — Town Council made clear its desire to have a separate process for naming rights via sponsorship or donations. Council members thought it should be “more about merit than money,” as Council member Jen Mason put it.

“My main concern is this whole idea of naming things because people have written checks,” said Council member Jonathan Staufer on Feb. 7. “The people who we’ve honored have been honored, in other words, for what they’ve participated in and done for this community. I think an honor is one thing and naming rights are another.”

On March 21, when the resolution passed 6-1 — with Staufer being the lone dissenting voice — Halloran said that while the resolution “does not preclude any large capital campaigns or somebody donating a building; we would consider those a separate decision point along the way as they come up.”

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