Weaver gets scenic park dedicated in his name


RIDGWAY, Colo. -- A new park that features fly-fishing, scenic trails and a huge bronze eagle was dedicated Saturday to the late "Gunsmoke" actor Dennis Weaver on 60 acres of land his wife donated to the town.

Weaver moved to Ridgway in 1988, building a home made up of recycled tires and cans on 175 acres along the Uncompahgre River.

The centerpiece of park opened in his name is a 2,800-pound bronze eagle with a 21-foot wingspan.

"The eagle is a sign of power. He was a very quiet, strong, powerful person," said Gerry Weaver, widow of the actor-environmentalist.

Weaver, who died last year at the age of 81, first became famous as Chester, the limping sidekick of Sheriff Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke," which first aired in 1955.

He was taken more seriously in later TV and film roles during a six-decade career, including the lead in Steven Spielberg's 1971 "Duel." He also played a canny New Mexico deputy solving New York City crime in "McCloud."

Dennis Weaver's humble beginnings instilled a love of the environment in him, Gerry Weaver added. Mayor Pro Tem John Clark said many residents came to know and admire the star.

"Those of us over 40 remember him from his 'McCloud' TV show and his older movies," he said. "He cared about the land and the area he chose to settle. It's really appropriate that this park is here."

"His favorite word was passion. If you don't have passion, what do you got?" said Gerry Weaver.