When Snowmass Village’s Ice Age Discovery Center reopens June 1, it will have one of its most exciting finds of late: cash.
Members of the Snowmass Discovery board that is shaping how the town handles the myriad fossil discoveries of 2010 and 2011 at Ziegler Reservoir — everything from multiple mastodons to salamanders — recently gained a $22,500 appropriation from the Snowmass Tourism office and another $21,000 from Town Council.
The latter funds will go toward the salary of a new, part-time executive director, interim director Rhonda Bazil told the council last month.
She also said that the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS), which led the dig-site efforts and holds the bones as the designated state repository, plans to install a fossil preparatory lab in the discovery center.
DMNS staff will bring back bones recovered from the reservoir — the Snowmass center currently only has cast models — for an interactive public look at the fossils and what goes into prepping them for analysis, a memo to council says.
“We have a lot of exciting things planned,” Bazil said Tuesday.
But hiring a director for long-term planning was the top priority in a report by John McCarter, a consultant who recently retired as CEO of Chicago’s Field Museum.
A foundation of the Crown family, owners of the Aspen Skiing Co., paid for McCarter’s report, Bazil said.
In it, McCarter says discovery board members should focus on a “multi-year plan to bring the Ziegler ice-age discovery to the public in meaningful ways, with an emphasis on creating some excitement and awareness right now in 2013,” according to the memo.
For the summer, the SkiCo has broached the idea of building a dig pit at Snowmass, Bazil said.
Tom Cardamone, a Snowmass Discovery board member, told Town Council the pit would be “basically a big sand box full of black rubber pellets,” with replica bones “that kids of all ages can search for and identify.”
Cardamone, chief ecologist for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, said the organization plans to have daily interpretive hikes incorporating the fossil finds.
There also will be a Colorado Mountain College lecture series over the summer, and ad hoc programming and promotion, council members were told.
Longer term, McCarter’s report says Snowmass Village should consider building a “mini-IMAX”-type theater in which attendees are surrounded by — in what Cardamone described as “‘Avatar’-like” fashion — creatures that existed 150,000 years ago.
Other ideas that McCarter deemed worth exploring include indoor and outdoor art, a climate-change center, a traveling exhibit and scientific conferences.
Mayor Bill Boineau applauded the planning effort, and Councilwoman Markey Butler said the financial commitment could produce something “very successful for this town.
“In terms of promotion [and] spending, it will far exceed $21,000,” she said.