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New Park

A huge and amazing park opened August 25, 2007 in memory of actor and environmentalist Dennis Weaver...

Date:   8/26/2007 3:29:41 PM   ( 14 y ) ... viewed 2112 times

Dennis Weaver Memorial Park Dedication in Ridgway

By Christopher Pike   in the Telluride Watch
Saturday, August 25, 2007 7:45 PM MDT


RIDGWAY, Colorado – Gerry Weaver, in memory of her late husband, Dennis Weaver, an actor, environmentalist and humanitarian, will be donating, on behalf of the Weaver family, a 60-acre, scenic public park to the Town of Ridgway on Saturday, Aug. 25.

Town administrators will accept an unofficial deed to the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park in a public ceremony starting at 5 p.m. The park encompasses over one-half mile of the Uncompahgre River corridor and the adjacent, pristine riparian land. The actual deed to the park property will be conveyed at a later date, after legal technicalities have been worked out.

The park, located north of Ridgway on the west side of US Hwy. 550, will be separated from a 175-acre tract purchased by Dennis Weaver in 1988. In addition to conservation benefits, the park will offer world-class fly-fishing and new scenic hiking and bicycling trails. The remaining 115 acres of the tract will become a low-density “green” housing development called RiverSage. The 19 planned two-acre home sites have been strategically clustered in areas of minimal visual and wildlife impact, away from the river corridor and riparian areas that will be permanently protected from any future development.

It has been a long journey for the Weaver family. Project manager Rick Weaver, Dennis’s oldest son, presented the development/conservation plan to Ridgway and Ouray County in 2003. It was originally thought that the RiverSage project should remain in the county, based on expected changes in the land use code that would provide the Weavers enough of a density bonus – in exchange for the preservation of most of the land as open space – to make the project economically viable. However, the proposed county changes were indefinitely tabled in 2006, less than one week after Dennis passed away. As a result, the Ridgway Town Council, realizing that the Weavers had been left with no option but to develop 35-acre parcels along the river, began serious negotiations about annexing and ultimately rezoning the 175 acres.

During the process, Rick suggested the creation of a Dennis Weaver Memorial Park to be deeded to the town. Community support soon became widespread, and the property was annexed in January.

“Dennis’s dream is coming true, but a year and a half after we lost him,” Gerry said. “He had always hoped to find a way to preserve the river for the wildlife and nature lovers, and now, through the joint efforts of his family and the wonderful citizens of Ridgway, it will be done.”

The dedication will take place around the recently constructed Dennis Weaver Memorial, which the family has characterized as “A Sacred Place of Peace for All to Share.” The ceremony will include a transfer of the deed from Gerry to Mayor Pat Willits. In keeping with the Native American theme, family friend Kimah McCarty will conduct a drum session with the Ridgway Elementary School “Eagles,” and Dick Darnell, another friend and Dakota Sioux shaman, will give a special blessing.

Weaver, perhaps best known as an actor and committed environmentalist, was also esteemed for his writings. Passionate about eagles (who nest above the Uncompahgre River in winter), he penned a poem that has been put to music by concert artist Cathy Bolton on her Angels and Eagles CD; she will sing it at the ceremony. The poem has been engraved on a plaque affixed to a massive 19,000-pound Dakota stone obelisk at the entrance to the memorial, which is dominated by a magnificent three-tone bronze sculpture of an American Bald Eagle in flight, donated by long-time Ridgway friends and residents Gerrye and Bill Widger, and created by renowned artist Vic Payne.

The eagle is soaring above a 12-foot high monument of large Dakota stones, acquired from donors and arranged by Dennis’s youngest son, Rusty, who has been preparing the memorial site with wife Madison and a crew of volunteers all summer. The memorial depicts the dramatic appearance of the eagle approaching the monument, barely brushing the tip with its outstretched wing.

Weighing 2,800 pounds and with a wing span of 21 feet, Dennis’s eagle epitomizes the closing lines of his inspirational poem: “So, seize the moment which is now, for your eagle lives within, Hold the vision of your truth, dream your eagle and fly with Him.”

According to Rusty, the memorial grounds are intended to reflect a Native American ceremonial site. Upon entering, a visitor will step onto a manicured pathway surfaced with finely crushed orange granite, sandstone and locally excavated rock. The colors of the indigenous flowers and shrubs along the trail accent the reddish-brown patina of the stone beneath the eagle.

Approaching and encircling the monument, the pathway becomes a sacred stone “wheel” outlined by river rocks gathered from the park grounds. According to Madison, who designed it, “The wheel is a composite or hybrid of the wheel of life, medicine wheel and prayer wheel. Its purpose is to represent the cycles of life and death.”

Madison, who custom paints murals and prints, positioned the spokes of the wheel in perfect alignment with the summer solstice. The thought of the wheel was “inspired,” according to Rusty. “I had this vision of a wheel, and I just had to get out of the way, let it happen, and trust that it would turn out awesome.”

“I wanted the creation of the park to be a family labor of love,” said Gerry. “What they’ve done is amazing. Dennis would be so proud and humbled.”

Leaving the wheel, one can stroll down footpaths bordered by pinons and junipers to a lush BLM parcel and a picnic area alongside the Uncompahgre. The site beckons the visitor to listen to the river and sounds of nature, and to pause and reflect.

The vehicular entrance to the park is located 1.8 miles north of Ridgway on the west side of the intersection of Hwy. 550 and County Road 10. Parking is limited, and dedication attendees are encouraged to “go green” and take the scenic route to the park up the Uncompahgre River Trail, which begins at Ridgway’s Hartwell Park. A “Bike-or-Hike” caravan will be leaving around 4:30 p.m.

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