Dinosaur National Monument re-opens Carnegie Quarry for first time in 5 years

Dinosaur National Monument is one of the lesser known gems in the U.S. National Park system. Spread out across parts of Colorado and Utah, the park is home to an amazing display of fossils left over from the Jurassic era. In fact, the park’s Carnegie Quarry is considered one of the best places on Earth to view the remains of a wide variety of dinosaurs. For the past five years however, the Quarry has been hidden from the eyes of visitors due to an ongoing construction project. On Tuesday, that will change.

The National Park Service has announced that the all new Quarry Exhibit Hall will officially open on Tuesday, October 4th at 11 AM local time. When the facility does open, it will allow visitors to view the world famous fossil wall, where the remains of nearly 1500 different dinosaurs are encased. Amongst the species on display are Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Torvosaurus, to name just a few.

The Quarry Exhibit Hall joins a new visitor center, which was just opened this past Wednesday, as well. The visitor center serves as a gateway to the Quarry and features its own exhibits, bookstore, and theater. The two were built in conjunction with one another over the past few years and are now ready for the public to enjoy.

The official ribbon cutting ceremony will be attended by Utah Governor Gary Herbert and a number of other guests, such as Park Paleontologist Dan Chure and the jazz and marching bands from a local high school. The public is invited of course, and for fans of dinosaurs, this is sure to be a grand occasion. After all, for the first time in a half-decade, we’ll all have the opportunity to see one of the best displays of natural history on the planet.

National Park Service envisions visitor center of tomorrow

The U.S. National Park Service, working in conjunction with the Van Alen Institute, has opened a unique architectural design competition in which they are inviting colleges of architecture across the country to re-envision the visitor center of the future. The NPS recognizes that times are changing, and that its approach for serving the needs of visitor in the past, may not be best well suited for the future. The challenge it faces is to integrate new technologies and design ideas, while remaining faithful to the traditional national park experience that travelers have come to know and love.

NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis recognizes that the concept of the modern park visitor center traces its origins back to the 1950’s, when it was seen as the gateway to the park that it served. He also points out that many travelers are now researching our park visits online and through a variety of mobile devices, which has changed the way we explore the national parks as well. Jarvis is quick to add “There is no question that people should be able to talk to a real park ranger but is the visitor center in its current form the best way to achieve this?”

The competition will officially get underway this fall, with teams from universities across the U.S. proposing new visitor centers that address design elements, as well as facility management and operations, for one of seven national parks. These parks were specifically chosen because they offer a variety of experiences to visitors, allowing architects to flex their creative muscles.

The parks that are included in the competition include: Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Pennsylvania; Civil War Defenses of Washington, D.C.; Biscayne National Park, Florida; Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia; Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas; Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico; San Juan Island Historical Park, Washington.

A national design advisory committee is being assembled to review the projects based on six criteria. Those criteria include: a reverence for place; engagement of all people; expansion beyond traditional boundaries; sustainability; informed decision-making; and an integrated research, planning, design, and review process. In December, the committee will narrow the selection down to seven teams who will be encouraged to continue working on their projects, with winners being announced, and shared online, next summer.

This is an opportunity for bright young minds to have a direct impact on the future of America’s national parks and how we interact with them. It should be interesting to see what develops from this.

Visitor centers rule! – Road trip tip

For travelers who value spontaneity but want to avoid the mishaps inherent to unplanned trips, I can’t recommend visitor centers or tourism offices enough.

Several years ago, a friendly visitor center associate rescued me from a dodgy room in a dodgier neighborhood by booking a suite for the same price in an elegant condo building that had not entered my radar screen when I was researching hotels.

Since then, when traveling on the road, I always make a stop at the state Visitor Center for maps, brochures, hotel recommendations and clean restrooms (I can’t stress that last one enough).

Therefore, please let me say it again: clean restrooms.