Secretary of Interior to dedicate new Dinosaur visitor center Sept. 28 |

Secretary of Interior to dedicate new Dinosaur visitor center Sept. 28

Craig Daily Press Staff Report

The new Quarry Visitor Center, pictured above, at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah, encompasses 7,595 square feet. Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, will be the keynote speaker Sept. 28 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building.

Dinosaur National Monument's fossil quarry is scheduled to reopen next month, a week after U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar dedicates the park's new Quarry Visitor Center, about four miles north of Jensen, Utah.

Monument Superintendent Mary Risser announced Salazar's involvement Tuesday in a news release.

On Sept. 28, Salazar will be the keynote speaker at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 7,595-square-foot visitor center. The public is invited to the ceremony, which is slated to begin at 10 a.m.

The ceremony "formally unveils new exhibits explaining the monument and its features, an auditorium for programs and viewing of park films, a monument information desk and the park bookstore."

On Oct. 4, the new 10,500-square-foot Quarry Exhibit Hall will open to the public.

The hall, built on the site of the famous Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, provides viewing of about 1,500 dinosaur bones from the Jurassic Period, all exposed on a cliff face where they were deposited about 149 million years ago.

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After Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Park Service selected reconstruction of the exhibit hall and visitor center as a priority project. It was funded for $13.1 million.

Risser said the 18-month project will be completed on time and under budget. She did not elaborate on specific costs. Construction began in March 2010.

The new exhibit hall will also feature information and displays about the Jurassic environment and inhabitants.

"Oct. 4 is the 96th anniversary of the creation of the original 80-acre Dinosaur National Monument," Risser said in the release. "This will be the first time that the public will be able to see the dinosaur fossils in more than five years. What an exciting way to mark Dinosaur's founder's day. The National Park Service and Uintah County invite the public to join us in this celebration."

Exhibits in the new visitor center will introduce visitors to the monument's natural resources, homesteading history, petroglyphs, geology, paleontology and rivers.

The exhibits are "designed to stimulate the interest of visitors and encourage them to explore the 210,000-acre monument on their own," according to the release.

The visitor center ribbon cutting was scheduled a week earlier so the public could see the new interpretive exhibits once installed.

"The grand opening of the fossil quarry hall is a week later — still the original opening date — because of the added complexity of that building's construction and additional time needed to install exhibits and clean the fossil wall," Risser said in the release.

Dinosaur's original Quarry Visitor Center was a combination visitor center and exhibit hall at the site of the fossil quarry.

It was closed in 2006 because of structural damage caused by unstable soils on which it was built in the 1950s.

Attempts have been made to stabilize the building over the years, but health and safety concerns led the Park Service to close it for repair and reconstruction.

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