Bone Lick State Park
to erect museum at northern Ky. park
facility would house area history, prehistoric bones
Helen E. McKinney
UNION, Ky. (December 2006) A salty marsh could
hardly be expected to be an ideal spot for a picnic. But such a location
was transformed into a beautiful park. Now park officials want to build
a museum to house the areas vast history.
A fundraising campaign has begun to establish a museum at Big Bone Lick
State Park in Union, Ky. The town is located in northern Kentucky in
Boone County. Such a facility would celebrate the cultural and archaeological
significance of the 547-acre park, officials say.
Bone Lick State Park is located in
Union, KY, a town in Boone County,
in the northern part of the state.
A visitors center was built several years
ago, said J.T. Miller, Commissioner of Kentucky State Parks. It
was originally designed to be part of a larger structure. This would
be another attraction to increase visibility and use of the park.
Great herds of mastodons, wooly mammoths, ground sloughs, musk ox, stags
and moose were once attracted to the warm salt springs still bubbling
nearby. They were often trapped and died in what early settlers called
Their preserved skeletons left behind clues about what life was like
in prehistoric Kentucky.The fossilized remains of the animals were discovered
in 1739 by Baron Charles Lemoyne de Longueil and displayed at museums
throughout the world. Notable Americans, such as Benjamin Franklin,
Thomas Jefferson and Lewis Meriwether and William Clark, personally
examined these fossils, which have now come back home.
A large area is required to permanently display them. This is
the only state park that focuses on paleontology and the prehistoric
time period, said Miller.
While there are a lot of unique aspects to Kentucky state parks, officials
would like to focus on expanding the tremendous amount of natural history
available at Big Bone Lick.
We want to incorporate a very strong educational aspect
to this project, said Miller. Currently, artifacts are housed in a one-room,
3,800-square-foot area converted from a former visitors center.
Nine glass display cases feature smaller fossils and American Indian
Early on, plans called for a 19,000-square-foot addition to the visitors
center. Parking would accommodate 150 vehicles, in addition to a theatre
and classrooms. Most of the parks acreage has been placed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
Various exhibits would interpret not only the paleontology aspects of
the prehistoric period of North America but expound on the settlers
contact with the bones as well, said Miller.
Efforts to preserve the parks natural history have not gone unnoticed.
On Oct. 19, the park was honored by the Boone County Conservation District
with the Cooperator of the Year Award. This award is given
as part of a state and nation-wide program sponsored by the Kentucky
Association of Conservation Districts and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Kentucky Legislature approved $2.5 million for projects at Big Bone
Lick. But existing facilities must be maintained first before building
new ones. This doesnt leave enough money to build a museum, said
The design of a museum building will dictate the price tag, but Miller
believes a new museum will be in excess of $5 million. Kentucky Sen.
Jim Bunning has been instrumental in securing $600,000 in federal money
for the museums design, blueprints and mechanics.
herds of mastodons, wooly
mammoths and other large animals
once visited the salt springs.
Within four to six months, when the money is in hand,
the designing phase can begin, said Patrick Lense, president of Friends
of Big Bone Lick. Then it will be easier to get a large chunk
of money to build a museum with.
Friends of Big Bone Lick are a non-profit, volunteer organization that
supports the museum project. Its goal is to make fundraising efforts
easier. The current group is what Lense labeled a hybrid of several
The original Friends group banded together in the 1930s. Through various
trials, the group hung together in one form or another and raised enough
money to purchase land for the park in 1960.
We were promised in the 1960s a park with 3,000 acres, said
Lense. We have a little over 500 acres now, and no museum. Weve
been waiting patiently for a long time.
The group is creating a capital fundraising plan that it hopes to initiate
in spring 2007. Their goal is to raise money or sponsorship to create
an exhibit to be placed inside the museum. Three additional parcels
of land, two contingent to the park, are being considered for purchase
Lense views the groups role as that of a mediator. They have brought
local and state politicians together in an effort to promote the significance
of the site that has been labeled by the scientific community as the
Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology.
Once federal money is in place, design work can begin on the museum.
We want to give people a reason to get off of the interstate,
For more information on Big Bone Lick, visit:
or call (859) 384-3522. Or visit: www.friendsofbigbone.org.
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