While Nov. 11 is officially recognized as Veterans Day, two Delta residents have a plan to honor veterans every day of the year through beautification of the Garnet Mesa Trail.
Jim Ball, a veteran of World War II, lives just above the trail that he's walked "hundreds" of times. At the age of 92, he's not quite as ambitious any more, but he still wants to see the trail lined with flowers, vines and bushes that will attract birds and butterflies. He believes the beautification project will also draw visitors, who will then stop and read the plaques honoring fallen veterans of not only World War II, but also World War I, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan.
Ball has pledged funds to this project, and has spent hundreds of hours researching suitable plants, such as wisteria, lilacs, butterfly bushes and milkweed. He's looking for low maintenance bushes that will propagate readily (to keep costs down) and bloom all summer.
Steve Dunivan, who joined the Army right after he graduated from high school in 1974, shares Ball's passion for the idea.
Dunivan has a special place in his heart for veterans. At his home, he maintains a museum where he preserves the military service history of our local heroes. It was through museum acquisitions that he met Ball.
When Ball shared his vision for the Garnet Mesa Trail restoration project with Dunivan, the City of Delta was in the process of developing its parks, recreation and trails master plan. Dunivan and Ball attended visioning sessions, talked with parks and recreation director Wilma Erven, and enlisted the support of parks director Tony Bohling.
Dunivan says the project has not taken off as they'd originally hoped, but the city is still on board and he and Ball are hoping to begin the project in the spring. They plan to start small, on the portion of trail directly below Ball's house, and hopefully find volunteers or a service organization willing to help out with propagation and maintenance.
They don't believe watering the plants will be an issue. A number of seeps come off Garnet Mesa near the trail, and the water could easily be collected and diverted to the plantings.
As they bloom, the vines and bushes will add color and a delightful fragrance to be enjoyed by all who walk the path. The sense of tranquility will be enhanced by plaques honoring Delta County veterans who have been killed in action.
Ball has traveled widely in his 92 years and has fond memories of the acres of floral displays at the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, the lush gardens at Shore Acres State Park in Oregon and other botanical sites. These attractions draw thousands of visitors and Ball believes the trail beautification project could do the same for Delta, albeit on a smaller scale.
Ball was raised in Durango. When he was a senior in high school, his sweetheart died of a systemic viral infection. He quit school the next day and he and two buddies joined the Marine Corps. The year was 1943, and the U.S. and its allies were fully engaged in World War II. Ball, a talented musician, was assigned to the West Coast Band. When the band disbanded four months later, he put down his trumpet and picked up a rifle. He soon found himself on a train to Treasure Island, where he boarded a ship bound for the Pacific with the 2nd Marine Division. His division was involved in three military campaigns prior to his discharge in May 1946.
"There's not much to say about the war, except that it's terrible," he said. "Those who serve are oftentimes incredibly brave under very difficult circumstances."
Ball went on to become a professional playwright and has used his skills to help World War II combat veterans write their memoirs.
"I've found out so many of our progenitors lived a life that their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren had no idea about, even what they did for a living, what kind of conditions they grew up, when they went to school, what they studied," he explained.
With Ball's help, 52 veterans now have a written legacy for their families. And if his vision for trail restoration comes to fruition, the sacrifices of those who died to keep America free will never be forgotten.
For more information on the trail restoration project or to volunteer, call Dunivan at 970-462-2137.