Back in 2006, I wrote a six-part series for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel about the budgetary and environmental plight of the region's six national parks and monuments managed by the National Park Service. In my story about Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border and encompasses the confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers, I reported that among the monument's myriad challenges was that the park was dealing with the closure of its famous Quarry Visitor Center and the exhibit hall surrounding the Dinosaur Quarry itself. The buildings were in danger of collapsing because of the shifting soils underneath the structures' foundations. Read that story here.
As of this week, Dinosaur has its quarry back. It took five years, but the National Park Service's shiny new visitor center has reopened, with the Dinosaur Quarry to follow next week. I visited the original quarry pavilion and visitor center shortly before the NPS closed it because of the possibility of imminent collapse, and it clearly needed renovation. But the ultimate loss of the original visitor center meant the loss of another fine (and rather famous) example of the National Park Service's Mission 66 program.
The Mission 66 program was the Eisenhauer-era initiative by the U.S. Department of Interior to breathe new life into the infrastructure of the nation's NPS sites, which by the mid-1950s was fairly dilapidated. If mid-century institutional architecture is your thing, check out the NPS' history of the Mission 66 program here.
Dinosaur's old visitor center was completed in 1958 and quickly became the symbol of the feds' Mission 66 program — a brick and concrete ultramodern edifice placed smack in the middle of a wild desert landscape. The visitor center is just a small part of the modern history of Dinosaur National Monument, which has a fairly prominent place in the history of water in the West: David Brower and the Sierra Club made it their crusade to save the monument's famous Echo Park from being dammed as part of the Upper Colorado River Project, which eventually flooded Flaming Gorge, Glen Canyon and the Gunnison River in western Colorado.