After two boys discovered a dinosaur trackway along the bedrock in Flatbed Creek in 2001, Tumbler Ridge made national headlines for having the first ever footprints and bone discovered together in the same rock layer. After reports were made about the discovery, palaeontologist Rich McCrea arrived on the scene, and has continued to make fossil, footprint, and bone discoveries in the region. There are a total of twenty-four trackways to date, some of which include up to 1000 dinosaur footprints.
By 2003, it was evident that Tumbler Ridge was now an internationally recognized centre for dinosaur enthusiasts and scientists alike. It was time to open the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre which included a collections area, a preparation labratory, as well as the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery which provided a public display area and was run by Rich McCrea and his wife Lisa Buckley. Tumbler Ridge continued to grow in popularity, and the wealth of artifacts became too much for the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre to hold, so in 2008 the artifacts and specimens were moved to a vacant school that needed many renovations in order to make it safe for staff and visitors.
Northern Development provided a $39,000 grant to support renovations which included the upgrading of washrooms, floor coverings, interior walls, ventilation, electrical, plumbing, lighting and security. The renovation also involved the removal of interior classroom walls and consolidation of spaces to accommodate areas for fossil and palaeontology specimen collections, preparation and fabrication. A 6,000 square foot space was also created to present a dinosaur storyline that is designed around the growing collection of fossils, bones and dinosaur skeleton models.
This project is part of a multi-year expansion that has been supported through two additional investments by Northern Development for Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation projects:
"The funding we received from Northern Development has been an important piece in moving this project forward."
Rich McCrae, Curator of Palaeontology, Peace Region Paleontology Research Center
Positive Economic Impacts in Tumbler Ridge
Since two major coal mines that employed the majority of Tumbler Ridge residents closed in the 1990's, the remaining locals faced many years of economic instability. The discovery of these tracks foreshadowed a new tourism opportunity for Tumbler Ridge at the perfect time.
An enormous amount of media exposure has been generated by this activity, with features by the Discovery Channel, Knowledge Network, the Globe and Mail, British Columbia Magazine, and many others. Many tourists are aware of the area and now visit Tumbler Ridge to see the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery that can live up to expectations and encourage return visits, in part due to a $39,000 grant from Northern Development Initiative Trust.
In 2009, the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation received funding through the Government of Canada's Community Adjustment Fund, delivered by Northern Development, to support an increase in staff and maintenance in order to expand the museum and its services. The funding and completion of the museum exhibits will allow for a significant expansion of the educational and interpretive programs which serve as tourist attractions and revenue generators. The ability to achieve growth at a quick rate will allow researchers to continue making significant discoveries, such as the recent discovery of the first ever intact fossil found in BC.
While palaeontology has grabbed the spotlight and has already significantly diversified the Tumbler Ridge economy from a coal town to a tourism destination, the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation will continue to expand the number of exhibits, and publish research as well as books so that they can continue to attract tourists and scientists to the region.
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