Golden’s U.S. Marine Corps memorial plans remodel, expansion

Memorial foundation looks to acquire neighboring CDOT property

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The U.S. Marine Corps Memorial Foundation is looking to remodel the memorial wedged between U.S. Highway 6 and West Colfax Avenue in southeast Golden. It also hopes to acquire the adjacent Colorado Department of Transportation property to build an event space and parking lot.

To that end, foundation leadership has asked Jeffco commissioners and staff for a general letter of support and for help navigating discussions with CDOT.

The memorial, which was dedicated in 1977, is the only one of its kind in the United States. While the memorial is on CDOT right-of-way, the foundation has an agreement to use the land in perpetuity, its board members told the Jeffco commissioners on Aug. 2.

Paula Sarlls, a USMC veteran and the foundation’s president, described how the memorial holds a lot of symbolism and history that’s “near and dear to Marines everywhere and to all service members.”

“When my husband and I went first went (to the memorial) … it was the first time we felt welcomed home,” she said.

The memorial site celebrates its 45th anniversary this month. Sarlls and her colleagues described the foundation’s plans to remodel and expand the current memorial site before the 50th anniversary.

Phase I will be remodeling the current memorial, and Phase II includes acquiring the adjacent CDOT maintenance facility property to house an event center/multiuse building and a parking lot.

Sarlls and her team said the building would be used to host various events for veterans, active service members and the public. The space could also be used to provide counseling for veterans and service members, or at least could be a way to connect them to those resources, they described.

Depending on which design it uses for the event space and parking lot, estimates range from $7 million to nearly $12 million. According to the foundation website, it still needs at least $3.5 million in donations to remodel and expand the site as planned.

Tim Dunn, the foundation’s treasurer, said possible donors were interested in the plan to expand onto the adjacent property. In preliminary discussions, CDOT has been supportive of Phase I but hasn't been formally approached about Phase II.

He mentioned the possibility of Jeffco facilitating a land swap between CDOT. Sarlls later clarified in a letter to the commissioners that this is only an idea, not an official ask.

"We understand that CDOT vacating the property may involve relocation of their maintenance facility," Sarlls wrote to the commissioners in an Aug. 4 letter. "If and when that occurs, any guidance/assistance from the county in that effort would also be appreciated."

On the whole, Dunn, Sarlls and their colleagues said Jeffco's expertise in discussing and possibly negotiating with CDOT will be invaluable to Phase II's success.

“We want to ask your support and partnership in acquiring the (CDOT) property,” Dunn said, addressing the Jeffco commissioners and staff on Aug. 2. “ … (The donors) were very interested in supporting us monetarily in going into that area. We were encouraged by that, but at the same time, we need navigation help.”

While the commissioners strongly favored writing a letter of support for the overall project, Commissioner Tracy Kraft-Tharp believed it was too early to guarantee a land swap. However, she and her colleagues agreed that Jeffco staff could investigate possibilities and get conversations started.

Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper, whose husband is a USMC veteran, said she was really excited about the project, and what it means for Jeffco and Colorado.

“I didn’t realize it was the only nationally recognized Marine Corps memorial (in the United States),” she continued. “What a real treasure to have in our community.”

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