Bids sought for Dinosaur Nat'l Monument project

Bids sought for Dinosaur Nat'l Monument project

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A project to demolish and replace parts of the condemned visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument has gone out to bid.

The project is getting more than $13 million in federal stimulus funds.

The Quarry Visitor Center, which houses the nation's premier quarry of Jurassic-period dinosaur bones, was shuttered more than three years ago because of safety problems. Its closure frustrated paleontologists who have been unable to access its 1,500 dinosaur bones.

Bids for a large-scale rehabilitation went out earlier this month. It's expected to be finished in 2011.

Park officials have also decided to temporarily relocate the visitor center at a former gift shop just outside the park's Utah entrance.

The 3,500-square-foot building -- which still has a distinctive green dinosaur out front -- will include replicas of a juvenile allosaurus and a sauropod as well as some fossils, according to Carla Beasley, the monument's chief of interpretation.

Most of the other items in the closed visitor center will be placed in storage until the rehabilitation is complete.

Crews will spend the winter remodeling for old gift shop and preparing for its opening next spring.

Meanwhile, dinosaur enthusiasts will watch for progress on the Quarry Visitor Center, about 20 miles east of Vernal.

The center was built in 1957-58 to shelter an exposed cliff face full of dinosaur bones discovered by a Carnegie Museum researcher in 1909. The National Park Service calls it the world's best window into late-Jurassic fossils.

But the center was built atop unstable clay. The bentonite swells when it's wet, warping the concrete basement floor, and shifts again when the clay dries out. That has meant near-constant shifting and repairs.

Park officials closed it abruptly in 2006 after finding problems that were worse than previously thought.

Plans to fix the building have been off and on several times but finally got a boost earlier this year with the announcement of the stimulus money.

The Park Service wants to rehabilitate the existing exhibit hall surrounding the 150-foot fossil wall to make sure the bones are protected and ready for public viewing. Other parts of the building would be demolished. An interpretive center and administrative offices would be built about a quarter-mile away.

The monument is about 150 miles east of Salt Lake City and straddles the Utah-Colorado line.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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