Silverthorne, Summit County plan for new child care facility |

Silverthorne, Summit County plan for new child care facility

Smith Ranch in Silverthorne is pictured May 14, 2020. A new child care facility is planned to be built next to the neighborhood by the Silverthorne and Summit County governments.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

As the Silverthorne community continues to grow, so does the need for child care on the northern end of Summit County.

Silverthorne and Summit County officials recognized the need for additional child care and partnered to build a new center at the Smith Ranch Neighborhood.

Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland said having a child care facility by Smith Ranch has been a goal since the start of the project. Hyland said the project is in its planning and building programming phase, working with architects and developers on what the facility would look like. Based on the current timeline, construction would begin in spring 2022 with the building set to open in January 2023.

The project is overseen by a group of stakeholders, including county and town staff and officials, Early Childhood Options leaders and the director of the Timberline Learning Center in Breckenridge. Hyland said the work group met with Wold Architects and Engineers on Wednesday, July 21, to get a first look at potential layouts of the site.

Hyland said it has been helpful to have members of the child care community directly involved to share their expertise on the project.

“I think the purpose of the work group is to have experts in really every aspect of the project, from end users having a great experience to making sure that we have a building that functions well in this environment,” Hyland said. “It’s a public project, and so we want to have an end product that everyone is proud of.”

While the town and county will own the land and facility, the work group will conduct a search for an operator to run the facility day to day, whether it be a nonprofit or a private operator. Hyland said he expects the facility to operate similarly to other child care centers in the area, with hopes of accommodating about 65 kids, including infants, toddlers and pre-K students.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said the project was delayed a bit due to the coronavirus pandemic but that it now has momentum.

“We just appreciate the community’s patience for waiting with us, especially families that are so desperate to get their child into a center,” Lawrence said. “Now, I really think it’s the right time.”

She added that joint community projects like this are essential to create solutions to countywide problems.

“We’re starting to understand post-COVID that we’re all so connected here in Summit County,” Lawrence said. “And certainly, allowing us to do these joint projects has been really great because we’re understanding that we can do so much more when we do it together.”

Lawrence added that everyone involved in the project is simply excited to bring additional child care to the north end of the county. While there are a number of small child care operations in the area, she said the closest large facility to Silverthorne is Lake Dillon Preschool in Dillon.

One concern in every industry in the county right now is the labor shortage, and child care is a contributing factor. Lawrence said every existing child care facility in the county has a waitlist and many are looking for more help, as well.

Lawrence and Hyland said workforce housing projects could help provide a solution, such as dedicated units for child care workers. Hyland also noted the town’s intention to include rental apartments somewhere within the Smith Ranch development as well as other upcoming projects.

“That’s a question for every business, every organization right now,” Hyland said. “Maybe this is the first opportunity where we actually can link up some dedicated workforce units, most likely rental, that could make this center sustainable long term.”

Lawrence said this will require “creative solutions.”

“Without appropriate child care, if our parents can’t go to work, it really stalls our community, because this is all connected: child care, housing, health insurance, etc.,” Lawrence said. “It’s something we’re just really passionate about working toward solutions.”

Hyland said the county would provide a majority of the funds for the project while the town provides land and property management. The design, engineering and construction cost is estimated to be $4 million, according to an intergovernmental agreement between the town and the county. The county will contribute $3 million, and Silverthorne will contribute $1 million as well as an annual subsidy of $125,000 for the facility’s operations.

“It’s an exciting partnership project that will fill a critical need in the community,” Hyland wrote in an email.

After the work group finds a design it is happy with, it will go through Silverthorne’s normal land-use process, including hearings with the Silverthorne Planning Commission and Silverthorne Town Council before construction can begin.

“We obviously will be soliciting feedback and making sure we’re publicizing hearings on that for the local community … making sure that they’re a part of that conversation as well with open houses and other opportunities to comment,” Hyland said.

Lucinda Burns, executive director of Early Childhood Options, said she is excited a new child care facility will finally help meet the need in the north end of the county.

“I hope it becomes one of the key — one of the most beloved features of the Silverthorne community,” Burns said. “I think it will be an important community amenity, and that’s what children need: to be part of a community.”

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