Trackway may lead to new dino attraction

Trent Ernst, Editor


As if Rich McCrea wasn’t doing enough with the Tumbler Ridge Museum and the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre (PRPRC), he’s now spearheading a move to get funding for a dinosaur trackway near Hudson’s Hope.

McCrea has been attracting media attention nationally and even internationally recently as he’s been making the rounds to raise money for a new tourism attraction in the Northeast, this one up near the Williston Lake Reservoir.

Last month McCrea went to speak to the Fort St. John city Council, and will be making a presentation to the District of Taylor Council on May 19 and the Peace River Regional District in Fort St. John the following week on May 28.

This time, The PRPRC is not looking to get government funding. Instead, they are approaching industry and individuals, using the crowdfunding site

The trackway was originally discovered back in the 2008 by a local resident who contacted the PRPRC, and are about the same age as the trackways that were discovered in the 1920s in the Peace Canyon area and are now under Dinosaur Lake.

“It’s a large tracksite that’s over a thousand square metres in area with several hundred dinosaur footprints and trackways going everywhere,” says McCrea. “The idea is to put a building over it to help preserve the site, as well as to provide shelter so people could come in and view the site. It would be an all-weather tourism attraction.”

The site has much to recommend it. First, it is along level ground. Many trackways in the region are vertical. Second, it is in no danger of being flooded or disrupted by industrial development. It isn’t even alongside a creekbed, meaning that a building could be placed over top with no danger of damage from springtime flooding.

Before they can do that, they need to do the research. “We need to thoroughly expose, clean, and record all of the footprints on the surface,” writes Paleontologist Lisa Buckley on the Indigogo page. “This is the largest tracksite documentation project ever undertaken in Canada, and there are resources we require to make this project a success in this short time frame.”

The Research is crucial to discovering what the PRPRC needs to know to protect the tracksite as an irreplaceable part of BC’s natural history, and to realize its full potential for use in interpreting BC’s fossil history to the public.”The Peace Region is still heavily dependent on the natural resource industry,” writes Buckley. “We want to both encourage science education outreach and develop natural history sites as tourism opportunities for the local communities.”

The long-term goal for the project is to create a dinosaur trackway tourist destination. “We envision an interpretive center placed over the track surface that will serve to both conserve the site and interpret the finds to the public,” writes Buckley.

The idea has not been done in Canada, though there are some like it elsewhere, like the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in Utah, and the Munchehagen Dino Park in Germany.

“British Columbia has a significant paleontological history that hasn’t been taken advantage of as far as tourism goes,” says McCrea. But this, coupled with both the Tumbler Ridge Geopark and the Phillip J. Currie Museum near Grande Prairie has the potential to turn the Peace Region into one of Canada’s premier dinosaur destinations.

“People come a long way to see attractions like this,” says McCrea. “The Alaska Highway is quite close, and it gets quite a lot of traffic. The idea would be to tease people off there.” He says it would be an hour, an hour and a half side trip off the highway.

Back in the 1920s, dinosaur tracks were discovered in the Peace River Canyon. They were among the first dinosaur tracks to be described in Canada, and they still are the first major track fauna to be described from the cretaceous period worldwide. Those tracks are all underwater these days. “They were right on the banks of the Peace River,” says McCrea. “There was no chance to preserve them.”

McCrea says for this year, they are looking for equipment to help get the project done. This is all outlined at the PRPRC’s Indigogo page, but includes a new truck, as the old vehicle is currently worn out, as well as a cargo trailer, 45 gallons of sweet latex, as well as food and travel for up to five people for the summer.

People interested in contributing to the project have until the end of June. Click HERE to visit their indiegogo page.