Mesa Verde National Park is an incredible place if you have any interest in archeology and ancient cultures. It can be a mesmerizing place if, after touring the cliff dwellings, you find a quiet place on the mesa top and just sit and ponder what life must have been like here a millennium or more ago.
And so when Fran announced last summer that the National Park Service would commit $10 million towards a curatorial and research facility proposed to be built in conjunction with a new visitor center, well, that was great news.
Unfortunately, some of the details got lost, or overlooked, at the time. One of the key details, ahem, is that the Park Service doesn't have that kind of money to commit to the project.
Apparently, what Fran really meant to say was that the Park Service would make such a facility a priority on the agency's own construction wish list. And that's a far cry from being a done deal.
For the better part of a month, in light of the president's proposed FY08 Park Service budget that calls for a $100 million+ cut in construction funding, I've been trying to get my hands on the Park Service's priority list of construction projects. After all, I figured it'd be interesting to see which projects would be impacted (ie., pushed back) by this proposed loss in construction funds.
While I have yet to get that list, I've known since last summer about the proposed Mesa Verde project and so have focused on where that project stands. This is a project that dearly needs to be done, as the park currently lacks proper space to house, research, and display its 3-million-artifact collection.
What I finally learned the other day was that the Mesa Verde Foundation, which has pledged to raise a good portion of the money needed to build the proposed visitor center, has yet to finalize its fund-raising campaign.
Additionally, I was told by the Park Service communications staff in Washington that while the curatorial and research facility does indeed appear on the agency's Fiscal '09 construction wish list, Congress, which often has its own wish list, needs to appropriate the $10 million that Fran "pledged" last summer. With that in mind, the earliest that groundbreaking could begin for the facility is the summer of 2009. If all the planets align.
Now, this all very well may come to pass. But it would have been nice to have had these little details last summer, rather than to have raised great expectations that this project was a done deal.