Thornton approves nature-based library in partnership with Anythink

Luke Zarzecki
Posted 5/28/22

Thornton City Council voted unanimously to build a nature-based library on the Aylor Open Land property on May 24. 

Pam Smith from Anythink Libraries said Anythink has been working with the …

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Thornton approves nature-based library in partnership with Anythink


Thornton City Council voted unanimously May 24 to build a nature-based library on the Aylor Open Land property. 

Pam Smith from Anythink Libraries said her organization has been working with the city on this project for four years. 

“This is going to be a project centered on supporting the wellbeing of our community, encouraging people to spend time outdoors,” she said. “Over the past two years, we’ve realized this idea is one of the most important ideas that we could actually provide because we’ve all experienced the need to spend time outdoors for our wellbeing and mental health.” 

Smith also hopes the nature library will help people understand their relationship to the land and their connection to stewardship of the environment. 

Doug Romig, programs director for Parks, Recreation and Community Programs, said the guiding principles for the library will be to blend the built environment with the natural environment, balance education with conservation and provide connectivity to the city’s trail network and neighborhoods.

“I’m looking forward to having a place to get away right here in the city,” City Councilor Kathy Henson said. “We all love to get up to the mountains, but I think this will be a real asset to the city and the greater community.” 

The city will partner with Anythink Libraries to build the 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot structure, which will provide nature-themed programming to the public. 

Romig said Anythink’s budget for the project is $50 million. According to the meeting’s agenda, Anythink will pay all capital costs for the construction, including a parking lot and exterior public restrooms.

According to Todd Barnes, a spokesperson for the City of Thornton, the estimated amount the city will contribute is $300,000 for the initial design and $2.7 million for open space improvements. 

The city will be on the hook for 50% of the funds for East 136th Avenue traffic improvements and 70% of sewer and water from the origin to East 136th Avenue. 

As well, the city will fund capital improvements for the open space land as needed. 

According to the meeting agenda, the library will include elements such as water access and a natural playscape. Romig said officials are looking to also build a bison enclosure for environmental education and native shortgrass prairies. 

“We do see this as a destination site where families will come out with the various amenities for a half-day or full-day experience with picnicking, hiking, library access, the nature playscape and access to water as well,” Romig said. 

The next step is a public meeting to gain input from residents and the Park and Open Space Advisory Commission. 

“We talked about this concept that no one had ever considered in this area, much less the United States,” Mayor Jan Kulmann said. “We all looked at each other thinking, ‘Is this really possible?’”


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