In a chance conversation early in 2003, Hazel Peters let slip that she had worked with statuary plaster and casting moulds in a previous business operation. Within days the directors of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation approached her, asking if she would assist in their efforts to make replicas of some of the dinosaur footprints that had been found in the canyons around town.
Although Hazel and her husband had only recently arrived in Tumbler Ridge and were anticipating semi-retirement, she was intrigued at the potential of this novel concept. Within weeks she was elected one of the TRMF?s directors, and commenced production almost immediately.
The original casting of the best footprint had been made over a period of four days the previous summer by Daniel Helm and Ryan Durand, who had been taught by palaeontologist Rich McCrea. Their mould of the print had been sent to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, where technician Darren Tanke had made a master cast, and returned it with instructions for production. It all seemed very complicated, and although the directors knew they had a unique opportunity, they were not sure how to proceed. Hazel?s arrival was certainly timely.
She quickly developed her own technique and began production, initially in a hastily constructed outdoor marquee-like structure in her backyard, later in the museum?s new Palaeontology Field Centre. Well over 300 prints have now been made, each slightly different, and each assigned its own number. These are sold to the public along with a numbered certificate of authenticity. They have proven remarkably easy to sell, as they are unique in North America and possibly the world, are fairly light and compact, and can be hung on a wall. Predictably, they have become a major fund-raising tool for the museum?s Souvenir Committee. They now grace the office walls of many an influential Canadian politician and business leader, and some have made their way overseas.
One of the most satisfying aspects for Hazel lay in Dino Camp, the successful summer program for kids aged 7-12 co-hosted by the Northern Lights College and the Museum Foundation. Each of the 76 graduates made their own footprint cast, under Hazel?s expert supervision, and this was one of the most popular activities of the weeklong camps.
She is now ably assisted by Doug Foerster, fellow TRMF director, sometimes churning out a few dozen footprints in an afternoon, followed by the cleaning up operation of the resulting mass of plaster and paint. This work has been done on a strictly volunteer basis, and the current plan is to stockpile footprints so as to allow free time to enjoy the summer – peak dinosaur season in Tumbler Ridge.
She says of her work, ?Working with the kids at Dino Camp was the highlight of making footprints. They were so thrilled when they were allowed to take them home. I am also very appreciative of the help from the Museum Foundation members, who have been out to paint and pour the footprints.?
Tumbler Ridge residents, and all those who share the passion for dinosaurs, are indeed lucky to enjoy the benefits of such a dedicated and professional volunteer.