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Veteran's memorial to be moved with Pitkin County construction

Marci Krivonen

Local veterans are concerned about planned construction near a memorial site in downtown Aspen. They fear work on a new county building will impact the Roaring Fork Veterans Memorial. Local vets and county staff have been in discussions on how to preserve the site, which some say is sacred. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Vietnam veteran Dan Glidden remembers how the Roaring Fork Veterans Memorial came to be. It was the mid 1980’s and the Pitkin County commissioners agreed to dedicate a site near the courthouse.

“Bob Child was the chairman of the commissioners at that time and we walked out onto the sidewalk, there. Bob Child said, ‘Mark the spot.’ I picked up a snowball and threw it and he said, ‘There’s your memorial site.’”

Credit Marci Krivonen
Veterans and their friends and family gathered at the memorial on Veteran's Day 2014. Such ceremonies are held annually at the site.

Since then, ceremonies marking Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day have been held there. The memorial is in a small park. There is a large marble block that sits atop a cement pad. Inside the pad are war mementos, like dog tags and photographs. Lieutenant Colonel Dick Merritt is a local vet.

“It’s sacred space, it’s a healing space and it needs to stay right in that area. It’s been dedicated and it’s a healing place.”

Merritt and Glidden have met with county officials ahead of the construction project. A new building - an addition to the courthouse plaza - will be built behind the park. The memorial will likely need to be moved and the park reconfigured. Jon Peacock is county manager.

“During construction, the site will be affected. It will likely need to have some regrading, as well as some landscape work done.”

It’s early in the process, but he says a reworking of that area may lead to an improved, more contemplative space.

“We’ll also look at, what we can do with our landscaping and design to improve the use and availability of that space for veterans, families and friends who want to use it to remember loved ones.”

Ideas about what the park can look like will come out after architectural designs for the new building are confirmed. In the meantime, the county will continue to meet with veterans.

Ultimately, both Merritt and Glidden say they’d rather the park configuration and memorial rock stay the same. But, for Merritt, it’s a matter of moving forward.

“We like it the way it is right now, but we realize with all the moves going on in the community, we have to go along with the community.”

Glidden says more outreach with vets and the public is needed.

“Where do you draw the line between getting a resolution back in 1987 that said ‘this is the spot.’ And where do you get 28, 29, 30 years later a message that it’s going to be moved and changed. It’s a matter of trust.”

Construction will shut down the park for about a year. Work is slated to start this coming summer.