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Dinos star in prehistory show at Vernal museum

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This is the fifth in a series of stories spotlighting Utah's nine heritage parks. Each week throughout the summer, special events will be scheduled at one of the parks.

Planning to visit the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park in Vernal? You'd better hurry.

Its doors will close in October — for good.

Taking its place will be an entirely "new" museum of archaeological and modern-day history, located two blocks to the east. That facility is scheduled to open in June 2004.

The closure will allow staff members time to move old exhibits and set up new ones.

The new center will also be a satellite facility for the National Park Services' Dinosaur National Monument, located on the Utah/Colorado border.

When talks began on building a new center, the park service expressed interest in finding a place for its new research and curation facility and asked if it could have space in the new building.

In the meantime, the "old" Vernal heritage park will participate in this summer's tour of state parks July 7-11.

Activities will include tours to view dinosaur tracks to lectures on ancient history to craft demonstrations.

The Field House has, for nearly 50 years, been Utah's biggest window to the distant past. Programs and exhibits reveal details going back more than 4 billion years in the Earth's history.

One of the main attractions is the dinosaur garden, located next to the museum, which hold 13 life-size dinosaur replicas in a thick, vegetative setting.

Ancient fossil skeletal reproductions, archaeological and geological exhibits, fluorescent minerals and other natural history aspects of the Uinta Mountains and Uinta Basin are also featured.

The new building will include a number of adventures for visitors. Among other things it will offer an interactive exploration program showing the rich fossil record of the Uinta Mountain region. Within an 80-mile radius of Vernal is evidence of the entire span of the Earth's history.

According park officials, visitors will learn how the science of paleontology is conducted by scientists and then prepare, articulate, study and identify fossils themselves in hands-on exhibits.

There will be dinosaur skeletons — real and cast — in the new interactive Jurassic Era Hall.

In addition, a walk-through diorama will replicate the sites, sounds and smells of Vernal as it sat on the edge of Lake Uinta 60 million years ago in the Eocene era.

The dinosaur models from the old museum gardens will be moved and placed in gardens at the new museum.

For more details on the week's events, call 435-789-3799.

E-MAIL: grass@desnews.com