Monument's visitor center in need of costly repairs


Dinosaur National Monument's Quarry Visitor Center is like a fun house, monument superintendent Chas Cartwright says.

It has doors that won't open and plumbing that doesn't work.

But more seriously, the building is becoming a safety hazard, Cartwright said at the Yampa River Basin Partnership's annual meeting Wednesday.

"I think we're almost to the point we can't ensure the safety of people visiting the monument or ensure the safety of the employees at the monument," he said.

Preservationists are demanding the monument restore the building, which is recognized as a national historic landmark.

But the restoration would cost as much as $12 million, Cartwright said. Constructing a new building would cost only $5 million.

"The reality is we can't afford to fix it in place," Cartwright said.

The ground below the quarry center makes for a poor foundation, he said. The quarry center has experienced extensive structural problems with movement resulting from moisture penetrating the expansive clay under the foundation.

"The building's been falling apart since the day it was built," he said.

The monument's staff plans to address the problems at the center by analyzing stabilization, rehabilitation, reconstruction or replacement options through an environmental impact statement.

But to stabilize the building, piers would have to be drilled 100 feet into the ground. Cartwright wasn't sure that would be a long-term fix.

He suggested the monument might decide to leave a cover over the quarry and move offices and facilities to a more stable location.

Since 1957, the Quarry Visitor Center has housed what the monument advertises as "the greatest quarry of Jurassic dinosaurs in the world."

The monument also is working to better house its dinosaur bones.

Currently, bones are stored in the quarry, while others are in storage sheds and garages of monument residents.

"We're not taking good care of our resources," he said.

A museum of dinosaur exhibits recently was constructed in Vernal, Utah. Because the park has no storage for all its bones, Cartwright anticipates building new facilities that would coalesce with this museum to house bones as well as archives.

It could be, he said, a center for researchers from around the world.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or

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