President Ford and his family have a special place in the heart of Coloradans, in part for helping to popularize the Vail Valley ski resorts – the “Western White House,” as it was then known.
Little-appreciated outside Colorado is that the Fords continued to contribute to the Vail and Beaver Creek areas long after the president left office. The Rocky Mountain News reports Mr Ford visited his Beaver Creek home as recently as this past July but had to call the trip short due to the 8100 ft altitude and his health difficulties.
For me, the greatest legacy of the Fords in Colorado is the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Billed as the world’s highest botanic garden, the Betty Ford Gardens are dedicated to the preservation of alpine and sub-alpine plant species and public education about this fragile botanical environment. Founded by Vail and Denver horticulturists in the mid-1980s, the gardens were renamed for the former First Lady in recognition of her contributions to the community, the state, and the nation.
As most of my time in Colorado is now spent in the summers, there is no better time to visit the gardens than then. Alpine plants have evolved uniquely to get an entire reproductive cycle into the very short mountain growing season and there is little more beautiful than the gardens against the imposing Gore Mountain Range.
While a specific area for medicinal plants is not segregated on the site plan, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens do contain some such specimens, including various Echinacea species. For alpine aficionados, the gardens maintain a searchable database to learn if your favorite plant is maintained there.