The Evolution of Dinosaur State Park

The five speakers at this event on July 12, 2006, were: Hugo Thomas, former professor of Geology at the University of Connecticut; Sid Quarrier, geologist at Dinosaur State Park from 1966- 1970; Richard Krueger, supervisor at Dinosaur State Park from 1970- 2003; and Roseann Gorski, representative of the Friends of Dinosaur Park and Arboretum who held numerous positions on the board of directors; and Gina McCarthy, former Commission of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

Hugo Thomas recalled the initial phone call in which he was asked if he wanted to collect samples at a construction site. Once at the site, he discovered chaos as people began to descend on the area….some curious, some seeking souvenirs. Protection of the site from scavengers became a major concern.

He noted that the type of construction work at the site was advantageous to the discovery. In the construction of a foundation, the equipment operators were stripping off rock layers, not just digging a deep vertical trench. As a result, the tracks were "uncovered."

Sid Quarrier said that the discovery captured the imagination of the people. It was a focal point --a nationally recognized site right in the middle of Connecticut -- and it was an opportunity to teach at an actual site. Now he envisions it as a Connectiplace to learn and celebrate Earth history. At the end of the Triassic period, it took 50 million years to recover. The greenhouse event at that time resulted in temperatures that were 6 to 9 degrees higher than they are today. Quarrier said today's predictions of drastic climate changes are not unrealistic.

Gina McCarthy remarked that even though "nature didn't let the dinosaurs continue," we must learn how to sustain this fragile world. She described Dinosaur State Park as a gift to young people: "This is a museum around the real thing." It is important to be good stewards of the land through education and preserving open space. She reminded everyone that "you don't understand your place in the world if you don't understand the past."

Richard Krueger recalled many memorable moments. When the park first opened, there were very few exhibits so he worked diligently for seven years to develop the trails and park land for teaching opportunities. Today, the staff uses the trail system and environment to illustrate the relationship with the plants and animals that lived at the time of dinosaurs.

The exhibit building resulted from several construction phases. The first was the "bubble building" noteworthy for being 120 degrees in the summer, frigid in the winter, and having the tendency to fall down frequently. In 1976, the building fell apart in a winter windstorm. It took a tension-filled effort and public support through a letter writing campaign by children to get the state government to literally "save the park." In 1977 the dome was lifted into place. The current exhibits in the park were completed in 1996, after a planning period of five years.

In 2000, Connecticut Magazine selected Dinosaur State Park as the best place in Connecticut for kids. That same year, Yankee Magazine described the park as one of the Seven Wonders of New England.

Representing the FDPA, Roseann Gorski recalled the original friends who simply asked, "How can we help?" They raised $63,000 for the dilophosaurus model and $30,000 for a miniature diorama. Later, a second group of friends realized the need for an ongoing source of funds. They developed the current Friends' Bookshop.

The evening was made possible by the funding of the FDPA, cooperation with the CT Department of Environmental Protection, and the park staff. Return to Trackway information.