Vail residents get final resting place |

Vail residents get final resting place

Tamara Miller
Preston Utley/Vail Daily Pastor Carl Walker, left, talks about the beauty of the Vail Memorial Park during the dedication ceremony Saturday in East Vail.

VAIL – Living in Vail can be hard at times. Until recently, dying in Vail was even more difficult.While more than 4,000 people call Vail their home, finding a final resting place for deceased residents wasn’t easy.”I think a lot of them have had local memorials and then go back to their hometowns to be buried,” said Diana Donovan, Vail councilwoman.But for Donovan, who has lived here since the 1960s, Vail is her hometown. Now, after 30 years of discussion and planning, Vail resident have a formal place to remember their loved ones. Community and religious leaders dedicated the Vail Memorial Park on Saturday morning with a quiet ceremony befitting of the park’s surroundings. Located on an 11-acre parcel in East Vail, the park is nestled in a circle of aspen trees just south of Gore Creek.

The 50 or so people who showed up for the dedication parked on the Frontage Road, headed down a paved walkway and then a sandy path that lead to the memorial park.It isn’t a cemetery: There will be no burials here. Instead, the names of loved ones will be memorialized on flagstones, boulders, rock benches, trees or a rock wall. People may also spread cremated remains here. Donovan, who serves on the memorial park board, said the park reflects the natural alpine surroundings. The ceremony marked the significance of the park. Pastors and priests read Christian, Native American and Jewish prayers, and the ground was blessed with holy water to commemorate the park’s status as a final resting place. The reverent renditions of “Ode to Joy” and “Amazing Grace” by a single bag-pipe player evoked tears from some. But the ceremony was not without some humor.

“What we celebrate today gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘staying in Vail,'” said Pastor Carl Walker of Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church.Merv Lapin, one of many donors who helped fund construction of the park, already had a stone picked out for his future memorial. The inscription read: Merv Lapin – “I came, I saw, I bought. Let’s play hockey.”The Rev. Don Simonton recalled a German newspaper that once noted few could afford to live in Vail and that “no one could afford to die and be buried here.”Vail Mountain founder Earl Eaton also was present at the ceremony and gave a few words that got a chuckle from the crowd. The park presented today represents just the first phase, Lapin said. It will have room for more than 300 names. However, the committee responsible for the park hopes to build two more phases that will have room for more than 4,000 inscriptions, he said.

The cost for the first phase was about $400,000 and the money came from a variety of community donors. The park board is leasing the location of the park with two 99-year leases from the town of Vail. More money is needed to complete the first phase and build the other two phases, Walker said. Until now, deceased Vail residents wishing to be memorialized locally had their cremated ashes spread at the top of Shrine Pass or Mount of the Holy Cross, said Bill Bishop. Now there is a place friends and families can visit to remember those they have lost.It was an important day for Vail, said Daphne Slevin, a local resident who also serves on the memorial park’s board.”We’ve had a need for this for a long time,” she said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or Colorado

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