Vail mothers lament lack of indoor play space
VAIL – Heather Chantler wants a place for her two kids, ages 9 months and 2 1/2 years, to burn off some steam without being bundled up in five layers of clothes.”An indoor option for a place that has snow on the ground eight months a year just makes sense,” she said.Chantler, who lives in East Vail and has snow in her neighborhood until April, takes her kids out sledding and playing in Bighorn Park, but even then she has to be careful that their skin doesn’t stick to the frozen metal.The outdoor parks in Vail are great, Chantler said, but she would like to see a free, indoor, heated play area where kids could run around in the winter.The closest good indoor play area is in the Burger King in Avon, she said. She also takes her kids to playgrounds downvalley, where it’s a little less cold in the winter, she said.”During the wintertime, we’ll go to Eagle because there’s no snow on the ground, and that’s too bad for the people who live in Vail,” she said.
Jenn Bruno, who lives in West Vail and is the mother of a 15-month-old son, said an indoor play area is a good idea.”We live right next to a town of Vail park, but we can’t use it in the winter,” she said.But she said she doesn’t know how feasible it would be to build one.”Maybe we can use some of the conference center (tax) money we collected,” she said.Years of effortsVail Rec District Youth Services Supervisor Diane Johnson said she has been trying for almost a decade to create an indoor play space.
“I’ve been working on that since 1997 in various failed efforts with the town of Vail,” said Johnson, who is also a mother of young children.Plans in 2000 and 2001 for the Vail Center, which would have been in Lionshead at the site of the shot-down conference center, contained a youth center, an indoor climbing wall and a skate park.In early proposals, in 2001, Donovan Park also had a space for children to be active. But that idea was cut out as the plan moved forward.”We have programs for kids, but there needs to be a place for kids to play, a la McDonald’s Playland, but better,” Johnson said.The failure to bring to fruition an indoor play place for children was a motivation to change the rec district’s teen center to the Imagination Station.The Imagination Station, above Subway in the Lionshead parking garage, features a giant kaleidoscope, science exhibits, easels for painting, a black-light room and a stage. It’s more of a learning center for parents and kids to use together than an active play place.
“Think children’s museum on a small scale,” said Chad Young, director of the program.Bigger and better?Councilman Mark Gordon campaigned as a candidate who would bring the middle class back to Vail, and he’s also the father of a 2-year-old son. Gordon, who was elected earlier this month, said he’s already working on getting a rec center in Vail, which would bring space for kids to run around, he said.”Right now I’m exploring a bunch of different options on how to get a rec center built,” he said.One other current option for kids and parents is the gymnastics programs at the new center near Red Sandstone Elementary School, he said.Councilman Greg Moffet said the town doesn’t have the tax base to build a large indoor park or rec center. Plus, there’s a lot of ambivalence in the community about those proposals, he said.
“There’s no groundswell of support right now for putting an indoor recreation center at the top of the agenda,” he said.One solution may be having a developer help build a rec center as part of a private development, he said.”Bottom line, we can either figure out how to tax people, or we can figure out how to tax developers for it,” she said.Vail Recreation District Director Mike Ortiz said Jefferson County’s Apex Center is a great indoor playground.”Something like that would be such an asset to the community,” he said.Ortiz said the rec district doesn’t have the funds to do something like that now.
“It’s something that a joint effort between the VRD and the town could make happen,” he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado