Saturday, October 13, 2012

Out with the old and in with the new at Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center

Columbian Mammoth cast at new welcome center

Chris and I took a Saturday afternoon drive out to the new Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center at the High Plains exit south in I-25. We missed yesterday afternoon's official dedication due to too many workplace meetings. But we did read about it on the front page of this morning's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. You can also read an earlier article I wrote about it here.

The welcome center is part highway pit stop, Wyoming Travel & Tourism Department offices, and historic museum. Its top-notch exhibits and dioramas show the state's history through dinosaurs digs, water projects, transportation, energy and outdoor recreation. Sometimes you experience it in many dimensions. The sloped walkway that takes you from the mammoth skeleton to the transportation exhibit is all about water: lakes, dams, waterfalls and fishing streams. You can hear the rushing water, and lights glimmer off the floor, giving you the feeling that you may be walking on water. Hallelujah!

The grounds are criss-crossed with trails marked with historic markers explaining it all for you. Multitudes of native deciduous trees and bushes have been planted. in about ten years, the place will have plenty of shade. There's a fenced-in pet walk area and a wetlands that drains the run-off from the highway. Berms have been added from the dirt remaining from construction of the center and the highway overpass. Along the top of the main berm is a series of five wind generators which were spinning today, powering the indoor exhibits.

This place is all about alternative energy and is powered by wind, solar and geo-exchange sources. Interesting to note that state taxes on coal and oil and natural gas paid for the bulk of construction costs while its operation will be powered predominately by renewable energy. Out with the old and in with the new. We are not really finished with the old, but places like this illustrate what the future holds.

It's also true that this place would not exist without the arts of architecture, design, photography, videography, literature, music and sculpture. A word about the music: no Muzak for this center, but it features western, C&W and Americana tunes. While there today, I heard a cowboy song by Wyoming's own Chris LeDoux and "Somebody Robbed the Glendale Train" by New Riders of the Purple Sage. Nice mix.

Stan Dolega's "Wind Code" outdoor sculpture not only uses steel beams patterned to look like Wyoming's ubiquitous snow fences, but also includes native rocks and is built to remind of us of the mountains we can see in the distance. It was put in place through the state's Percent for Art program.

Take a jaunt out to the new welcome center. It's functional and educational and pretty and fun. Sounds are good too.

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