If all goes as planned, in about a year you'll be able to walk into the new visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument and once again inspect a cliffside studded with fossils.
The old visitor center had to be demolished because it was no longer structurally sound. Earlier this year work began to take down the old facility and slowly erect a new one. So far, so good.
“The construction project to rehabilitate the Quarry Visitor Center in Dinosaur National Monument has cleared two major hurdles,” Superintendent Mary Risser said the other day. “The 28,000-pound gantry crane has been moved out of the building, and the south wing, ramp, and rotunda area have been demolished.”
The crane provided access for researchers and staff to the 1,500 dinosaur bones that were left as they were deposited 149 million years ago. The crane’s basket could be moved along railroad-type rails horizontally and vertically to any place on the 150-foot long by 50-foot high wall.
According to park officials, the contractor first pushed the crane to the east end of the building where all the windows had been removed. They removed the rails from the west end of the building and then extended the rails to the east into the parking lot. Three large cranes gingerly pulled the crane out of the building and laid it on its side in the parking lot, they added.
The rotunda that had housed staff offices and the bookstore was the most structurally unstable part of the building, according to officials. Because of the building’s movement over the last 50 years, tension built up on the steel support columns and beams. The contractor had to work carefully to release that tension so that there was no unintended structural damage or injuries to workers.
After weeks of treating lead-based paint on the steel beams and asbestos found in the putty holding windows in place, demolition of the ramp and rotunda occurred last Thursday.
“The protective structure to protect the fossil wall is complete and the new security system is in place,” said Superintendent Risser. “Other than a few minor things, demolition is basically complete, and we are ready to move on to the construction phase of the project. We are still on schedule for opening late summer/early fall of 2011.”