Visitor Center, Exhibit Hall will drive tourism, boost local economy
DINOSAUR, Colo.—Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today dedicated a new visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument that is expected to increase tourism and generate economic growth and jobs in northwest Colorado and northeast Utah in conjunction with a new exhibit hall to be opened next week.
“With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we were able to construct a new visitor center and exhibit hall that will enable the park to serve as an economic engine and support jobs for communities in this area,” Secretary Salazar said. “And visitors will once again be able to fully enjoy the world-renowned dinosaur fossils.”
The new Quarry Visitor Center replaces an old visitor center that was shut down in 2006 due to the structural instability. The closure kept visitors from viewing the Carnegie Quarry, a 150-foot by-50-foot rock wall that contains approximately 1,500 dinosaur bones dating back 149 million years. As a result, visitation at the site declined from slightly more than 300,000 people in 2005 to just under 200,000 people last year.
“The opening of the new visitor center and exhibit will again make Dinosaur National Monument a destination for tourists and allow the public to see the famous rock wall and its extraordinary fossils for the first time in five years,” Salazar said. “Every dollar we invest in national parks and public lands returns an estimated $4 in economic growth, and I'm optimistic that will be the case with our investment in these new facilities.”
The nation's then-394 national parks welcomed more than 281 million visitors last year who spent nearly $12 billion and supported 247,000 jobs, Salazar noted. Even with a decrease in visitation after the closing of the old visitor center, visitors to Dinosaur National Monument nevertheless spent $6.6 million and supported 75 jobs in the local community in 2009.
The dedication of the new visitor center and the opening of the new exhibit hall mark the 96th anniversary of the establishment of Dinosaur National Monument by President Woodrow Wilson on October 4, 1915 to protect “deposits of Dinosaurian and other gigantic reptilian remains” of the Jurassic era. President Franklin Roosevelt expanded the monument to more than 200,000 acres in 1938 to preserve and protect the canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers.
The Quarry Visitor Center includes new exhibits to introduce visitors to the historical and cultural history of the monument and an auditorium that will feature educational movies. The exhibit hall also features exhibits and displays on the Jurassic period and its dinosaurs.
The new facilities support the goals of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st Century conservation ethic and to reconnect Americans, especially young people, to the nation's natural, cultural and historical heritage, Salazar said.
“I especially hope that parents will bring their children here to stir in them the sense of awe that so many of us experience when we gaze at this unique landscape and its fossil and cultural history forged over millions of years,” Salazar said. “Places like Dinosaur National Monument can inspire a new generation of archeologists, anthropologists, and conservationists to safeguard our natural and cultural heritage across the nation.”