Three new dinosaurs stomping into Rood Hall Dino Park in summer 2023

Contact: Kayla Lambert
KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Be prepared for more roars on campus: The Western Michigan University Dinosaur Park is about to gain three new friends, and it is all thanks to the Kalamazoo Gem and Mineral Society (KGMS).
Allosaurus Statue

Pictured is the Allosaurus that will call Western Michigan University's Dinosaur Park home come summer 2023. (Courtesy: Lloyd Schmaltz Geology & Mineral Museum)

The installation of three new dinosaurs in the park, namely one Allosaurus and two Dilophosaurus statues from the Jurassic period, has been made possible by a $10,000 donation from KGMS, a self-defined rock club focused on sharing geological knowledge with the Kalamazoo area.

“We are incredibly grateful to the KGMS for their donation,” says Dr. Heather Petcovic, chair of Western’s Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences. “We are particularly excited about these dinosaurs because they are ones that fans of the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movie franchise will recognize.”

The park, situated at the back of Rood Hall, initially opened its doors with six dinosaur exhibits in 2019, followed by a seventh in 2021. A visit to the park offers an up-close look at ferocious creatures including a Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Parasaurolophus, Spinosaurus, Brontosaurus and a pair of Utahraptors, as well as the ferns that thrived in the era of these beasts.

The park is the work of the WMU’s Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, and is spearheaded by Robb Gillespie, senior research associate. The idea was backed and generated by the Geosciences Advisory Council.  The team, including Gillespie, worked to bring the idea to life. 

“The more we talked about it, the more we thought that this is something that’s going to really interest everyone,” says Gillespie. “It really promotes the STEM sciences throughout the school system in Kalamazoo.”  

The aim of the dinosaur park is to generate an interest in history and the environment among visitors, extending beyond just students. It is a free public attraction intended for everyone. 

“The dinosaur park is not only a popular hangout on campus, but brings in hundreds of families to visit,” says Petcovic. 

The dinosaur park has captured the imagination of a diverse audience, including students, faculty, parents, alumni, and residents from across the region. Its popularity soared during the pandemic, as it provided a unique and entertaining way to learn about the past while enjoying the outdoors. 

“We would have grandparents and parents bring their kids out in the summer to show them the dinosaurs because it was outdoors and COVID-19 friendly,” says Gillespie. “Now that we’ve had a chance to get things up and running, we are aiming to try and add more to the park to keep that (excitement) alive.” 

Four years have passed, yet the park remains a local attraction. It's not just a place to witness the awe-inspiring sight of prehistoric creatures, but also an opportunity to gain knowledge about their way of life. The park's informational plaques provide a wealth of information about each dinosaur, from its speed and appetite to its size, helping visitors comprehend the world of these magnificent creatures before their extinction.

“We hope that it inspires kids to learn more about our Earth, its history, and the current environmental challenges that we face,” says Petcovic. 

The installation of the new dinosaurs is scheduled for this upcoming summer, with the department working closely with Facilities Management to determine their ideal locations within the park. Visitors to the park can also explore the Schmaltz Geology Museum, located on the first floor of Rood Hall, at no cost. The museum boasts the impressive James Duncan Mineral and Agate collection, as well as an interactive augmented reality sandbox.

“The museum really is a hidden treasure,” says Gillespie. “It addresses what’s built up in Michigan as far as economic minerals, especially in the Upper Peninsula.” 

Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except for holidays and university closures). The outdoor rock garden and Dinosaur Park welcome visitors at any time.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.