A meteor hits the earth and wipes out all living creatures. The remains are planted inside the earth only to fossilize and adhere to the minerals in the ground. Millions of years later, a person trips over what is presumed to be rock, only later to realize that it is the nose of a triceratops. Hundreds of years later, those same remains are on display at the Harrison County Recreation Complex.
Finding the remains of some of the largest creatures to ever walk the planet can be just like finding a needle in a haystack. In 1812, Mary Anning, one of the most influential scientists ever, stumbled across the remains of a marine reptile that live nearly 200 million years ago off the coastline of Lyme Regis, England. She was 12 at the time. Today, the parks department proudly presents her findings on the walls of the Seas Room at the complex. Director Mike Book explains the perspective of findings like Anning’s.
“No matter where you are in the world, there is always a possibility of finding a fossil of some form,” said Book. “Walk the shorelines of vacation spots and you are pretty much guaranteed of finding a shark’s tooth. But, to find the remains of something like a T-Rex or Stegodon, there is science, but a little luck goes a long way too.”
Sue Hendrickson unearthed “Sue,” the most celebrated representative of the T-Rex family, on an excavating trip in South Dakota. A replicated mold of her can be found at the park’s exhibit. The original was purchased for a staggering $8.4 million dollars and given to the Field Museum. McDonald’s Corporation, Walt Disney World and private donors provided the funding to purchase.
The six-week exhibit, named Moments in Time – The Age of the Dinosaurs, gives the guests who visit the chance to see a few full-sized formed fossils and thousands of individual real and replica fossils to read up on.
“Besides the ordinary questions like who would defeat who in a battle, the kids want to know what is the primary period that the dinosaurs walked the planet. That time frame is important as we have bivalves from 500 million years ago as well as the Stegodon from the Ice Age. There is a wealth of knowledge to walk away with, but most importantly, there are a lot of cool fossils to look at.”
Last weekend was the opening. Historically, we have had upwards of 15,000 people attend the weekend program and we anticipate that number to be there again, especially with all the mandates being lifted. Masks are optional now, but the staff still practices safety protocols with proper disinfecting at the close of the day.
The hours of operation for the public are Saturday and Sundays only between the hours of noon to 6 p.m. If you have a club, group or home school group and wish to have an evening tour, please contact the parks office to schedule your evening. The department is very accommodating, but group sizes do have limits and other restrictions apply.