Frisco gets update on Peninsula Recreation Area plan, considers Peak School relocation
FRISCO — Changes are coming to the Peninsula Recreation Area in Frisco as the town continues to work through a new comprehensive visioning plan for the area, a move that could include the relocation of The Peak School onto the site.
Representatives with Lose Design provided Frisco Town Council members with a broad overview of their work on the project during a virtual council meeting Tuesday night, outlining conceptual plans based around the idea of a recreation village and other amenities that would help solidify the peninsula as one of the county’s main attractions.
“What we’ve learned throughout this process is that the Peninsula Recreation Area is really the jewel of this community,” said Bram Barth, of Lose Design. “There’s all positive thoughts about what it is, what it offers, what it stands for and how it really is a part of the community’s identity. … That being said, we have identified some improvement opportunities. … There have been past plans, but it seems like there’s been a lot of ideas thrown out here and there. And our effort is to bring it all together under one umbrella, and really look at that vision and plan, and how to implement it.”
The Lose Design presentation largely touched on ideas already presented to the public during a community public house on the plans before the outbreak of COVID-19 in the area.
The concept generally outlines improvement efforts to operations, revenue-generating opportunities and value-added community benefits. Among other ideas, the plan calls for improved signage and wayfinding, a recreation village with expanded amenity options, better-developed trailheads and overlooks, “character elements” and more.
Though, the conversation also included a pitch from The Peak School’s Head of School Travis Aldrich, who proposed relocating the school from its current building on Main Street into the recreation area’s boneyard, a move he said could be beneficial to the school and town.
The Peak School is hoping to leave its current building, which Aldrich called “tired,” and school officials feel the Peninsula Recreation Area would be an ideal location as they look to expand educational offerings to pre-K-12 at a new home.
“We’ve had students that want to come here with younger brothers and sisters, and because we don’t have an elementary school option, families may look at another spot,” Aldrich said. “They might go to Vail because the Vail Mountain School is K-12. So for families looking to move to Summit, or even for families planning on becoming permanent residents at their second homes, they come to us a lot looking for that option. … We really feel like its time for us to look into that as an option.”
Aldrich said the recreation area would allow the school to better use nature as a classroom, with sciences classes able to head right outside for labs and opening the door for a “forest pre-K” that would allow youngsters to spend almost all of their time outdoors.
The move also would serve as a boon to student athletes looking to interweave their athletic endeavors with their education.
“This highlights a little bit of what (Aldrich) and I have envisioned for a long time in terms of creating resources in the community for athletes who are looking to train at a very high level but still want an academic experience,” said Whitney Hedberg, with the Summit Nordic Ski Club. “The Peak School is really well suited to do that because of the flexibility in the curriculum, and having a school located literally on the trails our athletes use would allows them to seamlessly integrate their training into their academics, and would be a true resource to not only attract athletes, but to support our own local athletes.”
Aldrich also noted that the change in locale would create a number of benefits for the town, including creating meeting areas for community groups that already use The Peak School’s facilities, like the Nordic club, Summit County Writer’s Group and Timberline Adult Day Services.
Additionally, Aldrich said the move would allow the town more freedom and creativity in developing the west end of Main Street.
While the concept was met with skepticism among officials when it was first brought to their attention, council members seem to have cautiously warmed to the idea.
“I had a lot of questions,” said council member Melissa Sherburne. “And not only did you clear them up, I’m enthusiastic about it. … There’s wonderful things that could come out of this. I think having those additional options in Summit County and Frisco is a wonderful thing. But at the end of the day, it’s a ‘What’s the benefit for the bargain?’ situation, and we’re going to have to look very hard at how this benefits Frisco kids and families first.”
Council member Andy Held also noted that as the town considers other upgrades to the recreation area, The Peak School could help to take some of the load off the town.
“One of the big things we have to consider here is The Peak School is a horrible building for a school,” Held said. “They’re dealing with it, and they’ll deal with it only for so long. … They’re not asking us to build them a new school. They’re asking for a piece of property. This absolutely would cover many of the issues that (Bram Barth) was talking about.”
Ultimately, the council asked town staff to continue conversations with the school to dig into details about how a potential partnership would work.
“This is a game changer possibility to change everything about the school,” council member Andrew Aerenson said. “I also see it as a big game changer for Frisco.”