The Dinosaur Quarry Visitors Center at Dinosaur National Monument, an architectural landmark as well as destination for tourists and those who are fascinated by the fossil remains of our planet’s former ruling elite, abruptly closed yesterday when the building was condemned as unsafe.
This sad event was a long time coming. From the Deseret Morning News:
The center was built in the mid-1950s on unstable soil. The first hint of problems emerged before construction was complete, she wrote. “Cracks in the parking lot began to appear in November 1957, and during the first year of operation, staff detected disquieting vibrations in the upper gallery.”
In 1967, the support columns received reinforcement. But throughout the 1970s and ’80s, “the Quarry Visitor Center continued to move,” says the release. By 1989, this motion was compromising the structural integrity of the visitor gallery.
“Supplemental anchorages were used to anchor the existing steel roof and visitor gallery deck beams to the masonry pilasters along the south wall.”
This year the National Park Service commissioned a formal monitoring program, according to Risser. Detailed inspections identified conditions that had not been noticed before, she said.
“This was an extremely difficult decision to make, but based upon this new information, we decided that we couldn’t expose the visiting public or our employees to the risk posed by this building.”
The quarry visitors center allowed you to see some 1500 dinosaur bones still embedded in the cliff against which the building was constructed. It houses the world’s largest quarry of Jurassic Period dinosaur bones, the result of paleontologist Earl Douglass’ smart hunch that a river flowed into this area 150 million ago, and that it carried the remains of dinosaurs that lived and died by its banks. Beginning his dig in 1909, Douglass shipped his initial discoveries to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where he was employed. There the bones were reassembled into dinosaur skeletons and put on display.
About 300,000 people visited the visitors’ center each year, and undoubtedly it was on the itinerary for tens of thousands of people this summer for whom this will come as a rude surprise. If you know anyone planning to visit Utah — pass the word. National Park officials hope to raise the money to repair the building, but no plans are yet in place.