Big Bend’s friends bring new light, dinosaur exhibit to park
If you’ve ever climbed the South Rim or watched the sun set over the Window in the Chisos Mountain Basin, you know Big Bend National Park offers some of the sweetest hiking within a day’s drive of Austin.
I met recently with representatives of the Friends of Big Bend National Park, a nonprofit group that raises money to improve and maintain the park. Such groups are becoming more and more common, as underfunded parks team with the public to protect natural resources.
Since its formation in 1996, the group has raised more than $1 million for wildlife research at the park, as well as habitat restora- tion, wayside exhibits and an expansion of the Panther Junction Visitors Center. Most recently, it helped fund new indirect lighting to replace flood lights in the park.
But with two important projects under way, more money is needed, say Courtney Lyons-Garcia, executive director of the Friends group, and Dennis Kearns, a board member.
At about 800,000 acres, Big Bend National Park ranks as one of the largest national parks in the country. It’s remote. And it can be dangerous, if you head into the back country unprepared.
That’s why the Friends’ biggest priority is to finish a short orientation film to give visitors a park overview and tell them how to stay safe during their visit.
They’ve raised $101,000 for the project, but need at least $40,000 more before filming can begin. They hope to finish by late 2011.
Also in the works: a new paleo exhibit at the park, the site of several important dinosaur bone finds, including the skeleton of a massive, plant-eating Alamosaurus that might have weighed more than 50 tons.
“It’s an important part of the story of Big Bend, and we’re not telling it,” Lyons-Garcia says.
Runners should note that the group has revived its popular long-distance trail run, a fundraiser. The Big Bend Ultra Run ’11 is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2011. Entry fee is $100 by Dec. 15 or $125 after that, if space is available. To register, go to www.bigbend50.com.