Designs for a new visitor center as well as an "exhibit hall" that would both protect and display a cliffside studded with fossils have been released by Dinosaur National Monument officials, who now must find companies that can build the two facilities.
The monument, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border just below Wyoming, has been without a permanent visitor center since July 2006, when structural concerns forced the park to close the Quarry Visitor Center. Since then a lack of funding has hampered efforts to replace that facility. However, with $13.5 million made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 the Park Service is moving forward with plans to erect both a new visitor center and a separate exhibit hall that would showcase the roughly 1,500 dinosaur fossils contained within an exposed hillside.
“As soon as we closed the building, we started taking all the steps needed to protect the fossils and to complete planning so we could begin construction as soon as funds were available,” says Superintendent Mary Risser. “By fall of 2008, we had completed the extremely lengthy compliance process. We anticipate completing the construction documents this September.”
The proposed visitor center will house an auditorium, book store, information desk, exhibits, and a theater. The exhibit hall would, essentially, be similar to the shelter that protected the hillside in the past. The existing roof and steel support columns would remain in place under the proposal, while the existing sides would be demolished and replaced with glass and translucent materials so visitors could gaze out across the landscape while viewing the protected hillside. The curatorial facilities that previously were housed in the old Quarry Visitor Center complex, are proposed to be relocated to nearby Vernal and placed in a joint state-federal facility.
The Quarry Visitor Center project is one of nearly 800 projects totaling $750 million that can be completed across the National Park System with funding from the recovery act.
The National Park Service will announce the opportunity to bid on the Quarry Visitor Center construction contract this fall, and anticipates awarding a contract in early winter. Ground-breaking might be as early as next spring. With construction expected to take 18 months, the new facilities could be open to the public by late summer or early fall 2011.
“Every aspect of the monument’s operations has been impacted by the closure of the Quarry Visitor Center,” says Superintendent Risser. “This project will implement sustainable green technologies and improve the visitor experience at Dinosaur National Monument. We will once again be able to provide public access to Douglass Quarry and its world renowned Jurassic-era dinosaur fossils. We are grateful that this recovery effort will enable us to accomplish this critical project that will protect our resources and enhance our ability to serve the public. Since this project will be contracted out, we anticipate that it will help put money into the local and regional economies.”