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The City Journals

Dinosaurs Claim Local Park

Apr 07, 2016 03:30PM ● By Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Ogden - Ogden’s sculpture garden, which is one of the largest in the nation, doesn’t display modern art or human figures but showcase models of creatures that existed millions of years ago. 

The George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park at 1544 East Park Blvd. contains more than 100 life-sized sculptures of prehistoric predators, marine animals and flying reptiles on eight acres of land. The park’s models are based on real fossil sizes and specialize in species that were native to Utah. 

“They look like they are in a natural habit, and that’s what makes it look so cool,” Rachel Jorgensen, a 16-year-old Dinosaur enthusiast, said after visiting the park. “You can really visualize it because they look like they are jumping or hunting or whatever. It’s my favorite out of all the dinosaur museums I’ve been to.” 

With Utah having the most dinosaur museums per capita of anywhere in the world, Casey Allen, park director, said his museum stands out for its sculpture garden. Although there are a few other dinosaur parks in the nation with similar outdoor space, the Ogden park is one of its kind in the state and is the only nonprofit one in the United States. 

Robert Marquardt, a local philanthropist, loves paleontology and came up with the idea of creating a dinosaur park after seeing how poorly community members treated the park space at 1544 East Park Blvd.

“He saw that it was a dumping ground where people would dump their trash, and with his fascination for paleontology, he thought this neglected park could be become something better.”  

Marquardt’s idea moved forward, and 23 years ago, the outside area of the park opened, Allen said. After its initial opening, the park expanded.

“Now, we’ve also got an inside museum that’s 200,000 square feet with animatronic dinosaurs, dinosaur skeletons and a real paleontology lab that’s run through the University of Utah paleontology program,” Allen said. 

Many of the bones in the lab were found in Utah’s own Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Kanab. One volunteer paleontologist has been working in the Ogden lab for more than 10 years, working 35 hours a week to piece a reptile skeleton together from before the time of dinosaurs.  The small lab in Ogden is equipped to handle delicate projects like that one, Allen said.

Each year about 120,000 people visit the park, with about 18,000 of those participants being students on school field trips. Last year, the park had amazing attendance, which was probably influenced by the new “Jurassic World” movie, Allen said. When the first “Jurassic Park” came out in 1993, the museum saw over 135,000 visitors.

People of all ages like the park, even adults. The cost is $5 to $7 per ticket, and the museum’s got a mineral and gem collection unlike anything in the Intermountain region, and that draws in the older crowd, according to Allen.

“My favorite part about working here is seeing the kids’ faces, though,” Allen said. “Pretty much every kid goes through a stage when they are just crazy about dinosaurs, and they just love it here.” 

Rachel, who had her 16th  birthday party at the park, is in that stage. With more than 10 dinosaur figurines, two raptor hats, dinosaur stuffed animals, Rachel said that dinosaurs are “her favorite.” She said she’s the kind of kid who goes to the library to check out books on dinosaurs and realizes that she’s already read all of them. 

“I love dinosaurs, and that museum was completely amazing,” Rachel said. “My friends and I played on the awesome playground and took pictures with the real-size dinosaurs, and the gift shop was pretty fantastic. Anyone who loves dinosaurs needs to go there.”