Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem | AspenTimes.com

Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem

Meredith Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Dear Aspen guests,

Hopefully your time in Aspen has been nothing short of enchanted, and my apologies to those of you who came from somewhere that likely has more snow than here at the moment. But wasn’t it fun to wear shorts on Christmas anyway?

I’ve been secretly delighting in the recent warm weather, and I also basked in an East Coast heat wave over Thanksgiving. I was visiting my family in New York and thoroughly enjoyed not cooking for seven whole days (a Thanksgiving miracle!), plus a range of activities with my parents and my sister’s kids, including a trip to the Bronx Zoo, a Broadway show and the Ripley’s Believe it or Not “odditorium” (which cannot, apparently, be fully appreciated if you’re under or over 11, a girl, or faint-hearted).

One morning I also took my 2-year-old daughter and 3-year-old niece to the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Conn.

For a blissful, record-setting two-hour period, the words, “No, no, touch,” never came out of my mouth (except for when we went to the bathroom and my daughter developed an odd fascination with a toddler-sized toilet). Since she was born I’ve dreamt of a place where her shrieks wouldn’t trigger an accidental state of emergency, and where, no matter how hard she tries, she can’t break anything or be the worst-behaved kid in the room. Who knew that such a place was in Connecticut all this time.

There was an art studio, energy lab, science lab, light gallery, a small performance space, outdoor playground, and something called Tot Town, in which infants and toddlers have their own space to play inspired by the latest research in early childhood development.

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As both girls passed out in the car on the drive home, exhausted from scrambling, poking, prodding, pulling, splashing, exploring, giggling and eating some macaroni and cheese, I started fantasizing about a similar kind of museum in Aspen, which could also be a spot for birthday parties, children’s theatre and where no one will look at you sideways when your kid chucks her sippy cup at the wall.

I often wonder how it is for people visiting Aspen with kids during weeks like this one. The Red Brick gym (with the astonishingly patient Tony) is closed for the holidays. Music Together sessions (with the she-was-clearly-divined-by-God-to-lead-music-classes Tammy) don’t start up again until mid-January. The Aspen Recreation Center is fabulous, but if you’re not in the mood to swim, your toddler weeps like mine when in proximity to an ice rink, or your fear of heights means no offspring of yours will climb that tower, then it’s not necessarily Mecca.

In other words, if your child is too young for an entire day (or even part of one) on the slopes, I can see how a week in Aspen can potentially seem more like a sentence than a vacation.

But imagine this: that lovely brick building just over the bridge from the John Denver Sanctuary on North Mill Street, which is the current home to the Aspen Art Museum. They’ll be relocating at some point in foreseeable future to a larger space downtown. What if it the original art museum space were to become a children’s museum?

It’s unquestionably a privilege to live in and visit an outdoor paradise like Aspen, but sometimes it’s nice to do things indoors, too. Like when it’s raining (in December), snowing (in June), or when your “Cinderella” DVD goes on strike after one too many showings.

If the Aspen City Council continues to let the new, as-yet-undecided tenant occupy the museum space at the same rent – $1 a year (no, that’s not a typo) – then a new nonprofit could move in with a legitimate shot at quickly and positively impacting the quality of family life in the Roaring Fork Valley.

While it’s become apparent that many existing local nonprofits are drooling over the idea of taking over the museum when it become available, the reality is that most of them have perfectly adequate, functional spaces already. If Aspen really wants to continue attracting and retaining families – whether they’re here for a weekend or a lifetime – it needs to step up its kid-friendly amenities. A children’s museum would be a tremendous first step.

So if you’re in town right now and think you might have enjoyed an additional activity option for your kids, then why not let your voice be heard? This is a town that depends on tourist dollars, and your voice counts, no matter where you’re from.

E-mail a letter to the local papers (letters@aspentimes.com and letters@aspendailynews.com), to the Aspen City Council (sally.spaulding@ci.aspen.co.us), or walk into Carl’s or Explore and buy a postcard (mail to Aspen City Council 130 S. Galena St., Aspen, CO, 81611) and let everyone know you support a children’s museum in theory, and if it were to become a reality, you’d support it in practice as well.

In the meantime, for recommendations on where to buy a pair of flip flops in December, give me a shout. Warm wishes for a happy 2011, and safe travels.

More at meredithcarroll.com.

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