Rebuilt Jeffco courage garden rises from the ashes

Gazebo and garden destroyed by fire given poignant rebirth

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/7/21

For well over two decades, the Courage Garden that sits outside the Jefferson County Government Center has been a source of courage, healing and resilience. But going forward, the garden’s …

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Rebuilt Jeffco courage garden rises from the ashes

Gazebo and garden destroyed by fire given poignant rebirth

Posted

For well over two decades, the Courage Garden that sits outside the Jefferson County Government Center has been a source of courage, healing and resilience.

But going forward, the garden’s connection to those concepts will be not just symbolic but literal as a large section of the garden that was destroyed in a fire last October has been rebuilt and is now springing forth new life once again.

On June 30, dozens of leaders from across the county gathered at the garden to mark its rebirth with a ribbon-cutting that celebrated the completion of the new gazebo that sits in the center of the garden and replaces the one ruined in the fire.

“This is an important day because it’s built back,” said Jeffco Sheriff Jeff Shrader during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “And it’s built back stronger and more beautiful.”

Work on the Courage Garden began in the mid-1990s when members of Jeffco’s crime victim advocate staff asked the county about creating a permanent memorial for county crime victims.

The garden grew significantly over the years with the addition of new plants, trees and gardens to honor the memory of individual crime victims.

But then came the Oct. 7 fire, which destroyed not only the gazebo dedicated to murdered Jeffco police officer Timothy Mossbrucker, but several of the surrounding plants and trees. The Golden Police Department believes the fire to be arson but has not made any arrests in the incident.

Vista Exline, the former Executive Director of Victim Outreach, Inc., said she and her former staff at Victim Outreach. immediately resolved to rebuild the gazebo and other destroyed portions of the garden.

However, it would take “well more than 100 donations from the community,” including a major one from the Golden Civic Foundation, plus volunteer hours from countless others to make that happen.

Among those who made significant donations was the 23rd Avenue Sculpture Studio, which constructed the new medal gazebo for a significantly discounted fee. Exline said they chose to go with a fire-proof metal gazebo.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony also came at a poignant time for Jefferson County, which lost Arvada Police Officer Gordon Beesley and Golden resident Johnny Hurley in a high-profile shooting in Olde Town Arvada the week before.

“The Arvada community and all of Jefferson County has suffered a profound loss…” said County Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper. “But as we know, we’ve been through crises before and we are a small community that comes together and takes care of another. And that’s why the courage garden is here to help us heal together. And if you look around not only will you see a place of solace but the faces of many who are here to help, including our victim advocates.”

Shrader said last fall’s fire and the subsequent rebuilding of the garden have also come amid a challenging year for law enforcement that him and other Sheriff’s deputies to wonder if the fire was a “comment” on their work.

“But whether it was or whether it wasn’t, this gazebo was going to get rebuilt and it was going to get rebuilt stronger than it was before,” he said. “And that’s a symbol of the survivorship that goes on with people who have been victims of crime, that they are going to be stronger.”

Among those who helped cut the ribbon was Mossbrucker’s widow, Lynn, who recounted the brutal nature of going through the court proceedings for her husband’s killer and “what a relief it would’ve been to come out and see the courage garden” during the trial as current crime victims will now be able to do long into the future.

“It’s wonderful to be here today and see this gazebo so beautifully rebuilt and now perhaps even stronger than before and virtually fireproof,” she said. “This is what must happen to us, the victims of crime. Our loved ones are taken from us and we are made to walk through a fire we did not light and in order to survive, we must become fireproof.”

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