Vail’s Ford Park could get $10 million overhaul |

Vail’s Ford Park could get $10 million overhaul

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson | Daily file photo

VAIL, Colorado – Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz and Chairman Harry Frampton presented a $10 million Ford Park revitalization project to the Vail Town Council Tuesday that they say will help drive Vail’s economy during the summers.

The project, which would integrate five areas within the park for a more cohesive feeling, could get started as early as next fall if the town of Vail decides to jump on board and contribute about $5 million.

The details haven’t been worked out on the plan, but the Vail Town Council gave an initial OK to at least further exploring the ideas within the proposal.

The idea for the project has been a long time in the making. Frampton said the park has gotten a bit “ragged.”

There’s also a desire to remain ahead of an increasingly competitive world in which mountain towns are fighting for business. He used Sun Valley, Idaho, as an example of other ski towns that are working hard to make improvements that guests will recognize. Sun Valley recently spent $42 million on a new amphitheater.

“Other resort towns are stepping up,” Frampton said. “What a competitive world in which we live – ski resorts are doing extraordinary things.”

The Vail Valley Foundation’s proposal calls for a new Ford Park, with even a new name.

The Ford Gardens would incorporate the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, an open-air event veranda, the Vail Art Sculpture Garden, the creekside park and strolling path and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater to create a park that has synergy.

Folz envisions performers from the Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival or the Vail International Dance Festival rehearsing in the new open-air veranda as guests in town stroll through the gardens and watch. It would be a vast improvement from the current set-up, which involves bussing performers all over the valley to use various facilities for rehearsals.

She calls the veranda an informal place that would be very rustic and would fit in naturally with the park.

The proposed amphitheater improvements include an enlarged entrance to the amphitheater that would be more welcoming for social gathering, as well as many aesthetic improvements.

The lawn seating changes would be a big help because the lawn isn’t currently functioning too well, Frampton said.

“The lawn doesn’t work. It’s too much on an angle and it doesn’t accommodate very many people,” Frampton said. “It’s hard to sell tickets up there. If we step it on angles, where people would be sitting on flat ground, we think we could accommodate more people through this kind of design. I think it would be pretty cool.”

The improvements also call for flat-screen televisions near the back of the amphitheater so that people sitting on the lawn could see close-ups of dancers or instruments on screen.

“It would be exceptional, especially for the dance performances,” Folz said.

Other proposed improvements include a new entrance to the park with some kind of iconic structure, additional sculptures and artworks in the Sculpture Garden and added paths and improvements to the creekside park.

Frampton said cultural programs drive the economy, plain and simple. Flowers are also a huge reason people visit Vail in the summers, as evidenced by surveys and research data over the years.

The proposed projects would continue to drive the economy and would make Ford Park more than a location to pass through, according to the Vail Valley Foundation.

The project is tricky, though, Frampton said. The park is on town-owned land and used by a slew of groups such as Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival and the Vail Recreation District, to name a few.

“Obviously it’s going to take a lot of work to, in essence, figure it out and make this work on an integrated basis,” Frampton said. “We haven’t figured it all out yet.”

The town of Vail also needs to figure out how the proposal fits in with the Ford Park Master Plan and whether proposed parking at Ford Park would interfere.

Councilwoman Margaret Rogers said the town needs to hear from the community about the project, too.

Some community members with a direct benefit or interest in the project spoke out in favor of it, including Alan Kosloff, chairman of the Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival, and Ann Kurronen, executive director of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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