Museum cuts averted as county maintains support

Mari Burnham, 5, of Grand Junction, watches volunteer Nancy Colaizzi work in the paleontology lab at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, one of the facilities that make up the Museum of Western Colorado. The museum will receive $375,000 for its budget from Mesa County during 2012, the same amount as this year, the County Commission has decided.

The Museum of Western Colorado, which already has closed the doors for most of the year to one of its venues, will lose $25,000 in direct funding from Mesa County this year.

It will, however, get the benefit of $25,000 in advice from a fundraising expert who is to help the museum sharpen its efforts in that area.

The museum had hoped to get $500,000 from the county next year. County officials, however, had proposed reducing the county’s allocation to $250,000.

The commissioners in budget meetings opted to devote $375,000 to the museum — the same amount it received this year. A portion of that, $25,000, will be used to hire a consultant to help the museum hone a long-term fundraising plan to shore up outside support of the museum.

The decision will keep the museum operating as it is now and the additional fundraising help will be welcome, museum Executive Director Mike Perry said Monday.

The proposal to slash the county’s contribution to the museum to $250,000 would have forced the museum to take actions more drastic than it already has, Perry said.

Already the museum has closed the gates to Cross Orchards Living History Farm, 3073 F Road, except for special events.

The museum is already working to establish new sources of revenue and is hoping to replicate the success it had this year at its Dinosaur Journey venue in Fruita.

A life-sized and lifelike Tyrannosaurus rex, which moved and roared, drew record numbers of visitors to Dinosaur Journey and substantially boosted the museum’s revenue.

Next year, the museum hopes to play off western Colorado’s prehistoric finds of more recent vintage with a traveling Ice Age display.

“We generate about $1 million a year” for the museum from private donations, grants and program revenues, Perry said. The museum, meanwhile, attracts visitors who spend money elsewhere, making it “truly an economic asset to the valley,” Perry said.

No consultant has been selected to aid the museum, Commissioner Janet Rowland said. The hope is that the consultant will establish a long-term framework for museum fundraising in anticipation of a reduction in county funding to $250,000 in 2013, Rowland said.


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