TOWN OF RIDGWAY Weaver Memorial Park adds art and trails
By Bill Tiedje
Seven years after its dedication, Dennis Weaver Memorial Park has emerged as a crown jewel of the town of Ridgway, and its amenities continue to grow, including art sculptures and events, more trails and perhaps soon a welcome center for Ridgway.
The park's latest addition, an eagle sculpture created by Zimbabwean-born artist Bongo Love, was installed this summer.
"We found out what Bongo could do, and we commissioned him," said Rick Weaver, a Ridgway town council member and a son of the late Dennis Weaver, the actor and environmentalist to whom the park is dedicated. "It came out great," Weaver said.
Love also created a heron sculpture for the town of Ridgway, located on the Uncompahgre Riverway trail, south of the memorial park.
Pointing out the park's riverside picnic area, Weaver said, "When we first put this in, it was nothing but twigs and brush."
From the park's high point, Weaver noted views of both the Sneffels and Cimarron Ranges.
On Oct. 4, these scenic vistas will be utilized in the second annual plein air "Paint in the Park" event.
As during last year's event, Weaver said, artists will paint works in the park all day.
Afterward, the winning painting will be purchased by Public Art Ridgway Colorado and be displayed in Ridgway's Town Hall.
Last summer, volunteers with Ridgway Area Trails group completed the Eagle Alley trail in the northern portion of the park, bringing the total trail distance to six miles, looping from sagebrush hills to river overlooks.
"It's pretty much built out in the park," Weaver said of the trail complex.
Now that the trails are completed, visitors may soon find boots sticking out of the ground on "Boot Hill," according to Weaver.
This feature will be an homage to Dodge City's Boot Hill Cemetery as portrayed in the television series, "Gunsmoke," in which Dennis Weaver won an Emmy playing the part of Chester Goode.
Near the park's entrance from US 550 on Riversage Drive, the town of Ridgway has found a potential location for an informational, welcome kiosk to the town.
Although the town submitted a grant application to the Colorado Department of Transportation for the project, it is just in the idea stage, according to Rusty Weaver, another of Dennis Weaver's sons.
Rusty Weaver, with the help of Madison Anderson, designed the park's iconic medicine wheel walkway and regularly maintains the area.
"It's become way more popular than I think anyone expected," he said.
With future plans for a bathroom and perhaps electricity and water on site, Weaver reminded visitors to sign in at the entrance to raise awareness about the high amount of visitation the park receives.
"Comments will be helpful," he said, noting the park's growing reputation on TripAdvisor.com.
Rick Weaver said the idea for the park developed in 2003 as his father, whose health was deteriorating, sought to preserve the lands near the river.
After his passing in 2006, the town of Ridgway agreed to annex the area and accept the 60-acre park as a donation.
In return, the Weaver family developed higher density housing lots on a 40-acre section of the entire 175 acre property.
Weaver explained this high density zoning allowed the family to keep with his father's wishes of preserving the river corridor and maintaining open space, while paying for the project with the real estate development portion.
Two new homes are being built on the Riversage development this summer, in addition to the two existing homes.
Gerry Weaver, Dennis' wife, will be moving into one of the new homes.
Sunridge, Dennis and Gerry Weaver's former home, is now for sale, but Rick Weaver said there were many options for the property, such as a bed and breakfast.
For more information on the park's latest happenings, visit dennisweaverpark.com.