Museum of Western Colorado gets needed face-lift

Tama Stull and her daughter Natalie, 2, wait for the spray from the spitting Dilophosaurus at Dionsaur Juorney in Fruita

Last year around this time, the Museum of Western Colorado was staggering in its fight to get funding. But with some creativity, good timing and good fortune, it remained on its feet in the end.

The county cut funding by $75,000 for museum operations. At the same time the county increased its capital investment with the museum to $100,000 because the museum was facing critical issues at its three properties.

The dinosaurs at Dinosaur Journey, 550 Jurassic Court in Fruita, were falling apart. The barn at Cross Orchards History Museum, 3073 F Road, needed its roof replaced. And the Whitman Education Center, 248 S. Fourth St., needed its foundation repaired.

“We had some very pressing needs,” said Mike Perry executive director of the museum. “We have now completed all of the projects for which we were seeking support.”

The Whitman Center’s foundation was sinking on the south side. Mays Concrete did the job for under $15,000, Perry said. In the next week or two, workers will return to put the final touches on the job, sealing cracks that grew from the shifting foundation.

The historic barn at Cross Orchards “was on its last leg, literally. It needed to be replaced,” Perry said.

The first repair bid came in at more than $100,000. But then the county stepped in, redesigned the project and was able to hire a contractor at $49,000 to do the repair, Perry said.

The exhibits at Dinosaur Journey got help from outside sources.

“We did not need any of the county’s money for that project because we were able to secure grants from a number of different sources,” Perry said.

One of the biggest supporters was the city of Fruita, which directed $12,000 of a federal grant to the museum for replacement of carpeting and paint.

“The staff and the volunteers and the board of directors all pitched in, and they repainted that entire facility and cleaned it,” Fruita Mayor Ken Henry said.

The museum is a vital part of the economic vitality of Fruita, so much so that Fruita is working to parlay the revitalized museum and the community’s location as one corner of a regional dinosaur triangle. It will include Fruita and two Utah cities, Moab and Vernal, that would become a treasured national dinosaur diamond.

“All of these areas have dinosaur resources,” Henry said.

In addition to Fruita’s dollars, ConocoPhillips and the Lions Club donated funds for Dinosaur Journey’s repairs, Perry said.

He added that the museum’s board of directors is now working with the county to plan for future repairs and secure funds.

For the repairs accomplished to date, Perry said the museum and its staff are thankful to its supporters.

“A big thank you to the community for the tremendous outpouring we have felt,” Perry said. “It has meant so much to us.”

Perry said the museum’s five facilities have an operating budget of $1.5 million annually.

Mesa County contributes $500,000 a year, and the museum raises an additional $1 million through grants and donations, he said.


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