She knew it was coming.

Still, seeing the rubble of the former Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah building "was a gut punch," DaLyn Marthaler, executive director of the organization, said.

Word publicly emerged a little over a year ago that the rehabilitation center would have to leave the city-owned structure it previously occupied at 1490 Park Boulevard, adjacent to the George F. Eccles Dinosaur Park. Dinosaur park plans call for construction of a new structure at the site, where new dinosaur models are to be fixed and built. Prep work to demolish the old building started last week. As of Monday, the old building was largely rubble, a cause of Marthaler's heartache.

Shane Lyon, chairman of the dinosaur park board of directors, said once demolition is complete, work will begin on what's called "the Hatchery." Work should take six months to a year, and the planned structure will be used to conceive and build new dinosaur models as part of the planned growth and expansion of the park, which draws around 140,000 visitors a year.

"It's something that's going to help us take it to the next level," Lyon said. "We don't want to get stagnant. That's the worst thing we could do."

Patrons tour the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden on Aug. 2, 2006. | Edward Linsmier, Deseret News

The relocation of the wildlife rehabilitation center to allow for the dinosaur park expansion has been a sore point for many. The city owned the building where the rehabilitation center operated and had leased it to the nonprofit organization free of charge for more than 10 years. The arrangement was always meant as temporary, and when the city asked the wildlife center early last year to clear the space to allow for the dinosaur park's long-standing expansion plans, it took Marthaler and others by surprise. Many lashed out at the administration of former Mayor Mike Caldwell.

Marthaler, though, said remodeling of the new wildlife rehabilitation center at 332 Washington Blvd. moves ahead "slow and steady." The facility nurses injured birds and other animals from the wild back to health and is one of only a handful of organizations of its type in Utah. Nevertheless, a lot of work remains, she said, while praising the new administration of Mayor Ben Nadolski, who took over from Caldwell last January, for helping with the move.

At its old site, the rehabilitation center would sometimes be caring for hundreds of birds and other animals at a time. By contrast, only about 10 animals are currently at the new location as staffers and volunteers work to get it in shape. Even when the upgrades at the new location are complete, Marthaler expects it will only be able to handle 40% of the caseload handled at the prior site.

Meantime, she said, animals that the public once brought in for care are alternately having to fend for themselves in the wild or worse. "I cringe because I don't want to know. ... It's just a bad situation," Marthaler said. Rehabilitation center advocates are in the midst of raising funds to one day move to a larger facility, but Marthaler suspects the group will need more than $3 million, and the efforts continue.

Lyon, brought on to the dinosaur park board after the controversy over the rehabilitation center site erupted, said the new Hatchery building will cost around $200,000. A $1.5 million-$2 million "all-abilities" playground to replace the existing playground in the park is also planned as part of the initial upgrade plans, with more to come later. The park features life-size models of a range of dinosaur types along an outdoor trail, and plans call for the expansion of the trail system and more dinosaurs on undeveloped land adjacent to the Hatchery.

The planned new structure, Lyon said, “is just the beginning phase of that area.”