Walking Mountains Science Center completes staff housing project
Walking Mountains Science Center recently welcomed a small group of supporters to the Avon Tang Campus to celebrate the completion and opening of the Pete and Pat Frechette Educator Community. The housing project, comprised of two six-bedroom, six-bathroom buildings, will accommodate Walking Mountains’ educators and naturalists.
Educator housing has long been a part of Walking Mountains’ strategic vision in order to expand its capacity to meet growing demand in the community.
Pete and Pat Frechette were longtime supporters of Walking Mountains and they had a vision for educator housing since the initial campus was built. Both passed away in recent years, but their children and families continue to carry on their legacy through the Frechette Family Foundation.
The Frechettes deeply believed in education, but more specifically, hands-on learning. As a kindergarten teacher, Pat loved Walking Mountains’ experiential approach and that children were learning in nature. Pete was an entrepreneur and businessman and appreciated children learning the scientific method and critical thinking skills.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Pete and Pat early on in my tenure here at Walking Mountains, around 2005, and they were among the kindest and nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Markian Feduschak, president of Walking Mountains. “The completion of this staff housing brings Pete and Pat’s vision full circle and allows us to continue to recruit talented educators to better fulfill our important mission serving the students and families of Eagle County.”
“We are deeply grateful to the Frechette Family Foundation for their generous support and for honoring Pete and Pat’s legacy,” Feduschak added. “I’d also like to thank Ben and Pam Peternell for their additional support.”
“Honoring our parent’s legacy has been the focus of the Frechette Family Foundation for the last 3 1/2 years,” said Kathy Tenhula, daughter of the Frechette’s, speaking on behalf of the family. “Our mantra has become ‘what would mom and dad do.’ But with Walking Mountains, we didn’t even have to ask ourselves. From day one, we knew that supporting educator housing was near and dear to our parents’ hearts.”
The Frechettes were not only passionate about education. They were also enthusiastic about the educators themselves.
Walking Mountains’ educators participate in the Foley Graduate Fellowship and teach Walking Mountains’ field science programs during the academic school year and summer science camps. They are also enrolled in graduate courses in partnership with the University of Northern Colorado and earn a master’s degree during their two year tenure.
“They were passionate about supporting educators. It runs in our family’s blood. Our mother was a teacher, I was a teacher, and now their oldest granddaughter is on her own path to teaching,” said Tenhula.
Like other buildings at Walking Mountains, the Pete and Pat Frechette Educator Community buildings are designed to be teaching tools as well.
Brian Sipes of Sipes Architects, who designed the housing project and was the lead architect for the original campus, hopes to see the energy-efficiency building techniques used at Walking Mountains spread to other projects in the valley.
“That’s what excites me …to try and say we can build better,” Sipes said. “And if you do so, you save your costs long-term, because affordable housing is not about just the initial cost, it’s the ongoing cost as well.”
The Walking Mountains’ campus in Avon is comprised of some of the most energy-efficient structures on the Western Slope. The original campus, completed in 2011, is the Valley’s only LEED Platinum certified facility. The Borgen Precourt Center for Sustainability, completed in 2019, is a “net zero” building, which means it creates more energy than it uses over the course of a year. The new Pete and Pat Frechette Educator Community is also designed to be net-zero and will be the only net-zero employee housing in the Eagle River Valley.
“The ripple effects of this housing are endless,” said Tenhula. “From the educators to the students, from the students to the parents, from the parents to the community, and on and on. Through joy of learning we will all become better stewards of the environment.”
Walking Mountains Science Center’s mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education. Visit http://www.walkingmountains.org or call 970-827-9725 for more information.