Rebuilding Dinosaur National Monument’s Visitor Center

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When I was growing up, almost every documentary I saw or dinosaur book I read showed images of the great wall of Jurassic dinosaurs laid out at the Dinosaur National Monument visitor center. The wall, which is the enduring legacy of paleontologist Earl Douglass, who discovered the rich assemblage of bones during the early 20th century, is embedded with the remains of Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and others, many of which were left in place for visitors to come see. It was something I desperately wanted to see one day.

Unfortunately, the glass building constructed over the quarry proved to be dangerously unstable and the visitors center was closed recently. I did not get to see the great wall of dinosaurs when I visited last year. Thanks to an infusion of government funding, however, construction on a new visitor center is presently underway. Even better, the park's paleontologist, Dan Chure, has been documenting the step-by-step process of creating the new building on his blog Dinosaur National Monument Quarry Visitor Center Project. In the most recent update, titled "Painfully Paneless," Chure discusses the challenge posed by the building's glass walls:

It was known that lead paint was almost certainly present on the frames. Fifty years of painting in the Quarry Visitor Center has left a structure with a paint stratigraphy in which the oldest layers are lead based. So lead abatement was planned for in the removal. What was unexpected was that asbestos was in the glazing holding the panes in their frames. That discovery delayed the project as a new abatement plan was developed. Ultimately a crane was brought in and the contractors erected a negative pressure chamber on the basket and dressed in “moon suits” and wearing breathing apparatus, used electric saws to cut away the panes and their frames.

Despite such unexpected events, though, Chure's photos show how the visitor center is rapidly being transformed. I can't wait to see how it looks when it reopens in the fall of next year.

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