Still no fossil-marketing plan
The committee tasked with forming a marketing plan around the 2010 fossil discovery at Ziegler Reservoir told the Snowmass Village Town Council on Monday that it is close to completing one.
Council members expressed frustration at a recent meeting that the Ice Age Discovery Committee had not accomplished all it said it would in 2013, including establishing a 501(c)(3) organization. Board member John Rigney and Tom Cardamone, who was hired part time in April to lead the project, presented the council with a progress update and ideas for the future at the regular meeting Monday.
Cardamone was hired to work one day a week for five months, Rigney said. The town agreed to pay $21,000 for Cardamone’s salary in 2013. Cardamone “has given far more than the one day a week that we were supporting him for,” Rigney said.
Rigney pointed to that as well as the success of a bone-preparation lab in the Discovery Center on the Snowmass Village Mall as signs of progress in 2013. An intern from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science worked on fossils from the dig in public view in the center from July to October. The fossil prep was seen as such a positive amenity by Snowmass Tourism that the department has funded a similar operation for the winter season, which started the same day as the council meeting, Rigney said.
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The committee also added Rhonda Basil and Bob Purvis to the board and adopted a budget for 2014, “which is a funny exercise when you don’t have any money,” Rigney said.
In early 2013, the committee hired John McCarter, former CEO of the Field Museum in Chicago, as a consultant with a donation from the Aspen Skiing Co. Family Fund. McCarter proposed a variety of ideas for leveraging the dig, including for programs and facilities.
McCarter told the committee to “check this out with feasibility studies,” warning it that 90 percent of museums fail, Cardamone said. For that reason, the committee would like to hire a consultant to help it develop a sustainable program.
In addition, having Cardamone on as executive director only one day a week “is not going to cut it,” Rigney said. Cardamone is no longer working day to day with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, of which he was formerly executive director for more than 30 years. He will now be able to dedicate more time to the Ice Age Discovery program, Rigney said.
“I wish we could share in your exuberance, but we’ve kind of been in the dark as to what’s going on,” Councilwoman Markey Butler said after the presentation. “One of the takeaways might be how we can keep our community more informed.”
Butler asked how the committee planned to finance a consultant.
“We need to frankly find funding support,” Rigney said. “We haven’t made a formal ask. We (also) need to pay for Tom’s role in the (executive director) position. That’s something we are working on.”
“The 501(c)(3) seems extremely critical in order that we’re going to get funding support,” Butler said.
Mayor Bill Boineau said some people were getting frustrated because they didn’t know what progress the committee was making but that he was glad it was properly vetting the plan.
“It’s hard to fund those kinds of things in the long haul,” he said.
The Discovery Center first opened on the Snowmass Village Mall in 2011, just a few months after the first fossil, part of a young Columbian mammoth’s tusk, was unearthed by a bulldozer operator working to expand the reservoir. A committee, the predecessor to the current group, was formed then with the purpose of figuring out how to market the fossil finds.
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.