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Vail, Children’s Garden of Learning work to find common ground

A renovation of the Vail Gymnastics Center is currently the top option for relocating the childcare facility

Town of Vail officials and the board of the Children's Garden of Learning are working on plans to relocate the facility.

A move is likely for Vail’s Children’s Garden of Learning. But the final destination has yet to be determined.

The facility’s home for a number of years has been a town-owned site just west of the Middle Creek Village apartments. Town officials are looking closely at that site as a spot for workforce housing, perhaps to replace the already-approved Booth Heights project in East Vail.

At this point, the Vail Gymnastics center, just east of Red Sandstone Elementary School, is getting most of the attention as an alternate site. A possible renovation could add a third story to that structure, with child care operations on the first and third floors. The second floor would continue to be operated by the Vail Recreation District.

That idea has raised a number of questions, particularly about access and, more importantly, getting out in the event of an emergency.

In a June 18 letter to town officials, the Children’s Garden of Learning Board of Directors expressed its gratitude to the town, but noted a number of potential problems with the Vail Gymnastics Center site.

The biggest is emergency exits for more than 50 kids between the ages of 1 and 5. Traffic is another concern since the elementary school and child care facility share many of the same pick-up and drop-off times.

Snow storage is another issue, as is the location of a playground for the child care facility.

Town staff and Town Council members have said they’re seeking a “win-win” solution for both the town and the child care facility.

“We would never do anything that would cause any risk or harm,” councilmember Kim Langmaid said at the council’s June 16 meeting.

Vail Housing Director George Ruther at that meeting echoed Langmaid’s comments, saying that life safety issues are “paramount.” Those issues, along with traffic, licensing and emergency vehicle access are “the very basis of what’s driving our design work.”

All the parties talk about making the Vail Gymnastics Center site work.

In the June 18 letter, the Children’s Garden board notes that while the “shared concerns are as valid as they are significant, we do not believe them to be insurmountable.”

In a telephone interview, board member Maren Ceremele acknowledged that the board understands the facility will have to move. In fact, the town has notified Children’s Garden that its lease will expire in September of 2021. The Children’s Garden board has asked for an extension of that date.

Ceremele said the goal is to keep the Children’s Garden in the town of Vail.

If the Vail Gymnastics Center site won’t work and another site in Vail can’t be found, the center may have to look outside the town boundaries for a site. But that seems to be a less-likely possibility at this point.

Ceremele said the “first and foremost goal” is to make the situation a “win-win” for both the town and the Children’s Garden. That means making the Vail Gymnastics Center site work if at all possible.

“We understand that housing is important, but there needs to be a good balance to have a vibrant town, Ceremele said.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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