Vail Town Council promise: Children’s Garden of Learning will survive
Child care facility will probably move to make way for housing
Vail Town Councilmembers Tuesday made a strong statement about the Children’s Garden of Learning: The facility is likely to move, but it won’t close.
Those statements came during a Tuesday afternoon presentation to the council by Vail Housing Director George Ruther.
The child care facility is located on town-owned land just east of the Middle Creek Village apartments. That site has been identified as the best alternative to the Booth Heights workforce housing project in East Vail. If the project at Middle Creek is built, the Children’s Garden has to move, and move fairly quickly — by September of 2021.
Ruther told councilmembers that town officials and the Children’s Garden board of directors are working to find a new site for the facility. At this point, three potential sites have been identified.
The one that’s been discussed most so far is adding a third floor to the Vail Gymnastics Center, just east of Red Sandstone Elementary School.
Ruther for the first time put numbers to that idea: about $8 million.
The tennis court area in the Cascade neighborhood is another candidate for a permanent new home for the facility.
A temporary home might be needed, and Ruther said the town could find room at the Town Hall campus. Current thinking would put the facility in the west building, currently home to the Vail Community Development Department.
Ruther said the Children’s Garden board is asking the town for a memorandum of understanding about the center’s future. That board has been asked to submit a proposed agreement to the town.
Following Ruther’s presentation, Mayor Dave Chapin said he and other councilmembers have received a number of calls and emails about the future of the Children’s Garden.
“I want everybody to be clear. We’re not getting rid of the Children’s Garden of Learning,” Chapin said.
Chapin added that “We want a better facility” for the Children’s Garden, adding that the current facility isn’t “up to Vail standards … there are things we have to fix anyway.”
Councilmember Kim Langmaid echoed Chapin’s remarks.
“We remain fully committed that there isn’t any gap (in service),” Langmaid said, adding that she’s hoping for a “better situation” for everyone. An agreement with the Children’s Garden board is a “great way to outline our next steps,” Langmaid said.
Councilmember Jen Mason said she hopes that an eventual agreement can allow creating a facility with more capacity.
And capacity is sorely lacking in the Vail Valley.
During the evening meeting, Eagle County Early Childhood Manager Leigh Carlson-Hernandez told the council that the county currently has about 1,750 licensed child care spots, and 4,300 kids younger than five.
Carlson-Hernandez said parents can be on waiting lists for months, or even years.
“It’s very much an essential service,” Carlson-Hernandez said.
Councilmember Brian Stockmar said finding a new home for the Children’s Garden is an opportunity to expand capacity, “and do it in a way that meets Vail standards.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.