Preschool proposes new location off Brooks Lane in Eagle
EAGLE — Nobody at the town of Eagle debates the merits of the Rocky Mountain School of Discovery program.
In fact, the preschool that is currently open at a Gypsum location and has taken over operations at Sunshine Mountain Preschool was roundly praised for its emphasis on outdoor activities and its efforts to connect young children with the natural world.
However, a proposal to open an Eagle campus at a location off of Brooks Lane has raised several concerns regarding access, traffic and impacts.
Anne Helene Garberg is the owner and operator of the preschool, which has been operating in Gypsum for several years. She has proposed a second, permanent location in Eagle at an approximately one-acre site just west of Brooks Lane, immediately north of U.S. Highway 6. The site would serve approximately 30 children.
But Brooks Lane is a narrow, gravel, dead-end road that empties on to U.S. Highway 6. There are no crossing lights and there is no guardrail over the railroad tracks that lie between Brooks Lane and the highway.
During a hearing before the Eagle Town Board this week, parents who love the school urged the town to approve Garberg’s proposal while neighboring residents questioned the appropriateness of the location.
“I truly believe the site is wonderful,” said Garberg. She noted a house built back in 1912 is part of the parcel and her plan would preserve that piece of Eagle history. Additionally, the large trees and expansive site would provide room for lots of outdoor education options.
But even Garberg noted that the access is a challenge.
“I see that it is an issue, so we are trying to come up with a solution,” she said.
Her ideas include asking parents to park at the Eagle County Fairgrounds and then bring their kids to school via the existing pedestrian bridge and path. “It takes three or four minutes to walk up that way, maybe five or six minutes with a stubborn child,” said Garberg. “I don’t see that as a problem. It is an addition to our school philosophy. We are a walk-in school.”
Another alternative would be to run a shuttle bus from an off-site location such as Eagle Town Park to the school, Garberg said.
“I believe that people will make extra effort to come to our school,” she said.
Across the Tracks
In their discussion of the proposal, members of the Town Board noted that Eagle County desperately needs additional child care options, but questioned whether opening a school at the site proposed could even happen.
A few years ago, the town petitioned the Public Utilities Commission to designate Brooks Lane as a public railroad crossing. In its decision, the utilities commission agreed with the designation without any required improvements to the crossing provided there was no significant increase in residential units or the creation of a commercial use at the site. The preschool represents an obvious traffic increase, and the town board members noted the Public Utilities Commission is likely to require crossing improvements if the use is permitted.
Mayor Anne McKibbin noted that the board needs additional information before it could decide about the proposal, but there is a timing issue to consider as well. Garberg is currently operating out of the former Sunshine Mountain Preschool space at the Eagle Community Methodist Church, but the church has asked the school to relocate by Sept. 1 so it can proceed with a remodeling project.
Town Board member Andy Jessen noted he would hate to see Garberg proceed with her plans only to find out the challenges ahead cannot be addressed in just two months.
“I think having something ready by the first of September is effectively impossible, especially with some of the construction that would have to happen,” said McKibbin.
What’s more, there is the issue of who would pay for the improvements if they are deemed necessary and who will pay for studies and engineering to determine the need and map out the plan.
“It’s kind of a Catch-22. Money will have to be spent to determine how much money has to be ultimately spent,” said McKibbin.
Eagle Town Attorney Ed Sands said that one of the first issues that must be addressed it to get an answer from the utilities commission to see if the use is plausible. With that advice, the Town Board members agreed to contact the utilities commission for an opinion and table a decision regarding the school until their July 12 meeting.
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User