Village Voices: What’s up with the proposed Snowmass Discovery Center? | AspenTimes.com
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Village Voices: What’s up with the proposed Snowmass Discovery Center?

Casts of Ice Age-era mammals displayed in the Snowmass Pavillion on the Village Mall. In 2010, more than 6,000 bones belonging to 10 large Ice Age mammals and over 30,000 bones from 42 small animals were discovered beneath the Zeigler Reservoir. Over the summer, ACES naturalists hike up with locals to an overlook of the reservoir and talk about the renowned fossil discovery.
Maddie Vincent/Snowmass Sun

In January 2019, an “exhibit concept” plan for the proposed Snowmass Discovery Center in the built-out Collective building was presented in brief to Town Council.

With a “big idea” mission to highlight the unexpected 2010 discovery of fossil remains beneath Ziegler Reservoir that capture a nearly 85,000-year time span in the Pleistocene era with more than 5,000 large mammal bones and 22,000 small bones representing roughly 50 different species, the Snowmass Discovery Inc. nonprofit worked with exhibition planners to create a preliminary design plan for exhibits like a bamboo dig-by-feel interactive; a past, present and future climate at Snowmass simulator; and a virtual reality fly-through experience of the Snowmastadon site dig.

But since that January 2019 presentation, it’s been unclear how the proposed Snowmass Discovery Center will move forward, hence this month’s Town Talk question submission from Linda Koones: “What is the latest involvement concerning the Snowmastadon project? It seems that treasure has been ignored. I thought at one time The Collective would be representing the extraordinary palentological discoveries.”

To answer the question of “what is the latest” with the Snowmastadon site exhibition project, the Snowmass Sun sat down with Michael Miracle, executive director for Snowmass Discovery Inc., the nonprofit behind the proposed center.

Although things have been quiet over the past year, Miracle said he and the discovery nonprofit team are revamping their efforts to move the proposed exhibition forward, first by gauging local support and interest in the project this spring.

“If there’s a degree of sort of community impatience I accept and acknowledge that. We haven’t moved this as fast along as we would have liked,” Miracle said, noting that he and some of the nonprofit board members have been “buried in other things.”

According to Miracle, Snowmass Discovery Inc. contractually has the right to use half of the bottom floor of The Collective building, which is owned by the town and managed by East West Partners, for its proposed exhibition. He also said the nonprofit has a “handshake agreement” to use the entire bottom floor of the community building for the exhibition, which is the goal if the community and town supports it.

However, Miracle emphasized that the nonprofit is in no rush, especially with the success of The Collective programming so far, and is more focused on creating the best Snowmass Discovery Center possible.

“Because The Collective has been as successful and embraced as it has been, there’s not a ton of pressure on us to do it fast, so we want to do it right,” Miracle said.

Part of getting the project right stems from better understanding what the community wants out of the proposed exhibition, Miracle said, which is why he and the nonprofit board feel it’s important to meet with genuinely interested community members and stakeholders this spring as the project’s next step.

Outside of speaking with Miracle, the Snowmass Sun felt it also was important to speak with Charlie Singer, East West Partners project manager of The Collective, and Clint Kinney, town manager.

Both said they have not talked with Snowmass Discovery Inc. leaders in several months, but that the next moves to get the proposed center rolling are up to the nonprofit.

Singer said East West Partners has a license agreement with the town to use the downstairs game lounge space through October 2021, and is willing to work with the town to pursue the proposed discovery center if that’s what the town wants.

“We know it is a community building and we want to do what will make the community happy,” Singer said. “But we are really excited everyone has seemed to come and enjoy The Collective so far.”

Kinney echoed similar thoughts, noting that the town has protected the idea of the Snowmass Discovery Center in Base Village and is open to collaborating with Snowmass Discovery Inc. to make it happen, noting that the town has already helped pay for part of the “exhibit concept” plan costs.

He also said the town maintains a small display of Snowmastadon dig site artifacts in the guest services center at Town Park Station during the winter season, and a larger Ice Age Discovery Center exhibit in the summer, which was in the Snowmass pavilion on the Village Mall last year.

“The game room does not prevent it from ever happening and the ball pit area gives a nod to the importance of the discovery,” Kinney said of The Collective, referring to the Ziegler Reservoir artistic depiction.

“Optimistically, we are open to the proposed discovery center but we would want to make sure it’s something the community wants.”

Miracle said he understands the importance of community support and input on the proposed Snowmass Discovery Center. He also said he has more time to dedicate to the project and strongly believes the exhibition would be especially unique for locals and visitors because it is a story and experience that can only be told in Snowmass.

“I think a lot of people would love to wave a magic wand and see it come to fruition but there is no magic wand, it’s going to take a lot of work and buy in,” Miracle said.

“I feel a great personal responsibility to help bring this to life because I feel Snowmass is counting on me a little bit and I take that very seriously. … Even if the interest is starting to move into the realm of disappointment and pessimism I totally understand that, but I still believe this would be a remarkably cool thing for Snowmass and I ask people to not give up yet.”

If you are interested in seeing the Snowmass Discovery Center come to fruition and in working with Snowmass Discovery Inc., email mmiracle@aspensnowmass.com. mvincent@aspentimes.com


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