Outdoor schools get squeezed

  Two outdoor schools in Summit County, Colo., are feeling the pinch of development in their high country domains.

For the past 20 years, Keystone Science School has used the outdoors as a teaching tool. But the school's backcountry assets are threatened by Keystone Ski Area's real estate expansion on the fringes of the school's 23-acre property. As a result, the school is looking for a new location.

"Due to the increasing development in the area around campus, the school's present location no longer offers a true wilderness experience," says Chris Chopyak-Minor, the school's director.

The science school is now bordered by a new golf course, a paved bike path and homes large enough to be described as mansions.

"We still use the forest as a living lab, but the reality is that we're having to go farther to do it," she says. "Increasingly, we are relying on special-use permits, and on vans to take us to the backcountry."

The science school is looking for alternative sites in Summit County. In the meantime, the school's staff uses the encroaching development to discuss growth management in their educational programs.

The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, located on 40 acres next to the Breckenridge Ski Area, faces a similar problem. Paved roads and condos crowd what was once secluded property. But unlike the Keystone Science School, the Breckenridge center is staying put.

"We are using this as an educational resource for both the public and our clients," says director Rich Cook. "As the area gets more use, we feel that as an education center, our role is to help people understand the issues."

* Renee Aragon

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