Group proposes enclosed space to cover, preserve tracks at Dinosaur Ridge

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By Corinne Westeman

The Friends of Dinosaur Ridge is hoping to cover the dinosaur tracks at the Morrison-area site with a viewing facility.

Representatives from the group presented their ideas to the Jefferson County commissioners at a staff briefing on Aug. 29 and asked for consent to move forward with the formal proposal, as well as the planning and fund-raising processes. The commissioners gave their consent.

Jeff Lamontagne, executive director of the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge, and Sam Bartlett, a board member and retired geologist, emphasized that the group is trying to preserve more than 300 dinosaur footprints that are on display and that the plan has gone through several iterations with various Friends boards throughout the years.

The two said it is imperative to preserve the tracks for future generations to enjoy.

“The tracks on the right side (of the display area) have been exposed for about 80 years and are very difficult to see,” Bartlett said. “The ones on the left side have been exposed for 24 years, and we are losing them quickly. We need a completely enclosed track site cover.”

The conceptual design presented to the commissioners addresses aesthetic concerns, and improves ADA accessibility, drainage and roadway clearance.

The proposed structure would blend into the mountain backdrop and have a clear roof design with a disruptive black pattern to break up the glare for those passing by along the ridge and those within the structure. The roof would be translucent rather than transparent, they said, and the plastic film would be hail resistant.

Commissioner Don Rosier asked whether the structure would have plumbing, air conditioning, electricity and other amenities.

Bartlett answered that, as of now, the building likely would have only electricity to highlight the tracks with LEDs.

“Basically, it’s a natural setting; it’s not designed to be a modern building,” he continued.

Bartlett also clarified that while the group hopes to cover other tracks in the future, the Friends have decided that this is the area it needs to concentrate on. And, while this site is under construction, the group wants to add a stairway and platform to another site so visitors can still enjoy the tracks on Dinosaur Ridge.

Lamontagne and Bartlett said the group is estimating the total cost to be more than $3 million and will plan to fund-raise over the next five years.

The next step is a site approval process and community meetings to get feedback on the facilities and their aesthetics. Eventually, it will go to the planning commission for approval, Jeffco Open Space Director Tom Hoby stated, and then an agreement between the Friends and the county would be brought before the Board of County Commissioners.

“The county could inherit the facility,” Hoby said of the long-term possibilities for the site, “and we want it to be built to quality standard. We are going to be monitoring this process and working with the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge to make sure it’s a quality project.”

Rosier stated that he wanted to be fair and equitable to the group, and proposed opening up the agreement between Jeffco and the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge to be respectful to the group’s work and fund-raising. Commissioners Casey Tighe and Libby Szabo agreed.