Fossil museum possible but details remain to be sorted |

Fossil museum possible but details remain to be sorted

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

If Snowmass Village officials can nail down a few important details, finding donors for a museum showcasing the thousands of ice-age fossils found in the area in 2010 shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s according to Peter Kellogg, a Denver-based fundraising consultant, who on Monday presented to Snowmass Village Town Council members the results of a feasibility study his staff conducted that looked at whether the necessary funds can be raised to build and maintain a museum for the fossils.

“The capacity is enormous for large donations,” Kellogg told council members and members of the Snowmass Discovery Board.

However, questions about the location of the museum, the level of the town council’s support for it and the level of awareness in the Roaring Fork Valley about the project must be overcome in order for those donations to start pouring in, Kellogg said

“Usually the funding capability is not there,” he said. “The irony here is the readiness factor (is the issue).”

The fossils — which include bones from mastodons, mammoths, camels, horses, birds and salamanders as well as plant fossils — were unearthed in 2010 after crews began a project to enlarge the Ziegler Reservoir in Snowmass Village. A brief movie about the fossil find, which played at Monday’s work session, said 6,000 bones from seven extinct species were found at the Ziegler site as well as 30,000 tiny bones from small creatures.

“It is a remarkable discovery,” Kellogg said. “It’s unlike anything else in the U.S., and perhaps the world.”

Since the fossils were unearthed, Snowmass Village has been trying to figure out how to display and capitalize on the find.

The study determined that $6 million could potentially be raised toward constructing a Snomwass Discovery Museum, Kellogg said. Of that, $4 million would go toward building and equipping the museum and $2 million would go toward an endowment, he said.

A $10 million campaign was initially envisioned, which could still happen once the project begins moving forward, though interviews with feasibility-study participants indicated that $6 million was a better target, Kellogg said.

For the $6 million to happen, though, town councilors would need to nail down the details of the museum’s location, Kellogg said. If it is to go in Building 6 in the Base Village development as previously planned, start and finish construction dates for that building must be determined, he said.

“The devil in the room is Building 6 in Base Village,” Mayor Markey Butler said.

In addition, the project must have the unanimous support of the Snowmass Village Town Council, Kellogg said. It also must begin a campaign to raise awareness of the museum project and make sure the Roaring Fork Valley’s philanthropic community knows all about it, he said.

Kellogg said the Snowmass Discovery Board of Directors is “ready to get ready” to begin the fundraising effort, though it will require an expanded pool of volunteer leadership. He proposed a three-year fundraising campaign beginning in June, which some Town Council members thought might be jumping the gun.

“We’re basically at the beginning of April,” Butler said. “I think (the timeframe) is overly ambitious.”

Councilman Tom Goode agreed, citing uncertainty with the Base Village developer.

“We seem to be going gung-ho (with the fundraising timeline), and I’m not sure the town is going gung-ho yet on this topic,” Goode said.

Other factors in favor of the project include the continued participation of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and Aspen Skiing Co., Kellogg said.

Kellogg, who presented a summary of his findings Monday, told council members he will submit his full report on the feasibility study by the end of next week. The town council scheduled a special meeting April 11 to talk about the study and the project in more detail.