On-line Book
Book Cover to Mission 66 Visitor Centers. With image of Dinosaur NM Visitor Center, view from beneath ramp


Table of Contentss




Wright Brothers


Pertified Forest

Rocky Mountain

Cecil Doty



Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Mission 66 Visitor Centers
Chapter 1
National Park Service Arrowhead

Quarry Visitor Center
Dinosaur National Monument, Jensen, Utah

Surrounded by the dry, rocky terrain of northwest Colorado and northeast Utah, over two hundred miles from any major city, Dinosaur National Monument is an unlikely location for one of the Park Service's most distinctive modernist buildings. Even before its completion in 1958, the "ultra-modern" Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur had become a model of Mission 66 design and achievement. Its glass and steel observation deck, concrete ramp, and cylindrical "tower" suggested scientific inquiry and sheltered working paleontologists.

The transformation of the monument from a paleontological site to a visitor destination worthy of such attention resulted, in part, from one of the country's bitterest conservation battles. The canyon near the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers was the preferred location for a Bureau of Reclamation dam, and had been eyed by the Bureau for inclusion in the Upper Colorado River Basin Project since the 1930s. Legislation passed to expand the monument in 1938 included provisions for future development of water resources. What appeared to be a matter of local water rights in the late 1930s, however, would become a topic of national discussion after World War II. If the value of Dinosaur National Monument lay in its paleontological site—the richest deposit of Jurassic remains ever discovered—its sudden notoriety came from the high canyon walls and rushing rivers that the river development project promised to transform into power, irrigation, and drinking water. The dam controversy touched the heart of the National Park Service by threatening its basic mandate to protect individual parks and the integrity of the entire system. It pitted governmental departments against each other. Even within the Park Service, staff members stood on either side of the issue. The public was equally divided. This was an era in which big water projects such as Hoover Dam were wonders of engineering constructed for public benefit. The importance of preserving scenic beauty didn't make sense to many state residents, who saw the monument as a barren wasteland, or to Mormons, who believed that creating an oasis in the desert was their mission and God's will. At the same time, as many Westerners demanded equal water rights, members of the growing national "wilderness movement" saw the Echo Park Dam development issue as an opportunity to prevent a loss equivalent to that of Yosemite's Hetch-Hetchy Valley. [1]

The Echo Park and Split Mountain Dams appeared a foregone conclusion to many by 1950, when newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman scheduled hearings to discuss the proposals. Among the monument's supporters was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the nation's foremost landscape architect, who warned that the loss of "scenic and inspirational values obtainable by the public" at the monument would be "catastrophically great." [2] Olmsted urged the Department of the Interior to choose an alternative site, even if it resulted in financial loss. Despite such pleas, Chapman supported the dam. The headline of the January 28 Salt Lake City Tribune read "Echo Park Dam Gets Approval." Less than a year later, the Park Service announced plans for a resort-like development at the new Echo Park and produced a sketch of Echo Park Lodge, a vast complex for 500 visitors estimated to cost $2,500,000. Park Service maps indicated the areas that would be flooded and showed the locations of both Split Mountain and Echo Park Dams and reservoirs. [3]

The Park Service may have given up the fight after the Secretary of the Interior's decision, but grassroots conservation groups refused to back down. Media attention had been building since the hearings, and in July 1950, an article by Bernard DeVoto informed over four million Harper's readers of a potential tragedy at Echo Park. Rather than appeal to a public sense of environmental responsibility, DeVoto addressed the question of public ownership.

No one has asked the American people whether or not they want their sovereign rights, and those of their descendants, in their own publicly reserved beauty spots wiped out. Thirty-two million of them visited the National Parks in 1949. More will visit them this year. The attendance will keep on increasing as long as they are worth visiting, but a good many of them will not be worth visiting if engineers are let loose on them. [4]

DeVoto, a native of Utah, helped make the situation a popular issue, and once it reached a national forum new coalitions joined the conservationists. Californians protested that their water was being diverted, while Easterners declared themselves unwilling to pay taxes for western water projects. The campaign to save the canyon was given an additional boost in 1952, when David Brower became president of the Sierra Club. After seeing a film of the river, Brower made the preservation of Dinosaur his personal crusade. The new Sierra Club leader encouraged others to take up the fight by sponsoring river trips, producing his own film, and writing and speaking on behalf of the monument. Brower asked New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf to publish This is Dinosaur, a collection of essays by notable wilderness advocates intended to show "what the people would be giving up" if they accepted the dams. [5] Each member of Congress was sent a copy of the book, with a special brochure about the monument sewn into the binding. That Dinosaur was suddenly in the national spotlight is perhaps best illustrated by the 1954 movie, The Long, Long Trailer, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; "Daisy" overloads the newlyweds' double-wide trailer with her favorite souvenir, a very large rock from Dinosaur National Monument.

Finally, in November 1955, Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay announced that Echo Park would be removed from the Upper Colorado River project. [6] In March, both Houses approved water storage at three sites—nearby Flaming Gorge, Utah; Glen Canyon in Northern Arizona; and Navajo, New Mexico; the inclusion of Curecanti, Colorado, was contingent on further research. The threat of future development at Dinosaur remained, but for the present, the monument would be left alone. The Park Service quickly took advantage of this lull in the controversy to push for the long-awaited in situ visitor center at the now nationally famous site. Mission 66 came to Dinosaur amid this clash of ideals. In part because of the water project publicity, the Park Service chose to construct a monumental modernist building that demonstrated its commitment to the "protection and use" of Dinosaur National Monument. [7]

CONTINUED continued



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