Work is progressing on schedule to build a new visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument. Crews currently are demolishing the old "Lower Visitor Center" to make room for the new structure.
The old Quarry Visitor Center, which featured a covered walkway past a fossil-studded hillside, was condemned due to geologic instability. Because the new visitor center is designed to a silver/gold Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) certification, as much of the old structure's building material as possible will be reused. Exterior stonework has been salvaged and will be used in the new building. The mechanical and electrical demolition is complete, and the contractor is separating the debris to determine what can be reused, recycled, or disposed of, according to park officials. Site preparation to pour the foundation for the new visitor center is scheduled to begin next week.
“Work on the condemned Quarry Visitor Center is proceeding simultaneously, but before any major demolition begins, the safety of the fossil wall must be ensured," said monument paleontologist Dan Chure. "The Quarry Visitor Center served as a prototype for showcasing
fossils at other locations throughout the world. This is the first time that a building that protected fossils will be demolished over those fossils. So the project is of great interest to the scientific community.”
The new fossil protection cover will involve a system with a rope grid a few feet above the fossil wall and a black composite mesh placed on top of the rope grid. This system will be suspended from scaffolding that will be installed in front and on the sides of the fossil wall. The scaffolding will be covered by plywood to create a flat face in front of the fossil wall and a flat decking system over the fossil wall. The decking will have a fire blanket and plastic and foam layers.
The sides on the east and west ends of the fossil wall will also be enclosed by plywood, and the plywood on the sides and front of the fossil wall will be covered with a mesh fabric. The installation of the protective system is expected to take about 30 days.
A temporary visitor center just outside the park boundary about 4 miles north of Jensen, Utah, on route 149 will serve visitors until the new facilities are open. Access to the Fossil Discovery Trail where visitors can see dinosaur fossils in the rock along the trail will be only by shuttle, because access to the requires driving through the construction zone. A free shuttle provides transportation from the temporary visitor
center, located just outside the park boundary, to and from the trailhead.
The shuttle will be available during the morning hours four days a week in the spring and fall beginning April 10. During the summer, the shuttle will be available daily during the morning hours. Access to the Fossil Discovery Trail by means other than the shuttle is not permitted.