$73M dinosaur fossil park and museum coming to New Jersy

$73M dinosaur fossil park and museum coming to New Jersy. An event that was 66 million years in the making took place over the weekend near Rowan University. The Gloucester County school broke ground on a $73 million dinosaur fossil park museum on the site of a prehistoric treasure trove of relics just a few miles from its campus in Glassboro.

The 44,000-square-foot facility in Mantua Township will perch above a former marl quarry where 66 million-year-old marine and terrestrial fossils have been found.

“We are building a museum like no other, on a fossil site of global importance that will connect visitors to the ancient past…and to Rowan University,” Kenneth Lacovara, dean of the school of Earth & Environment and director of the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park, said in a statement.

One of the museum’s planned exhibits will include a recreated Dryptosaurus, the first discovered tyrannosaur, which was found a mile from the Fossil Park site in 1866, and a 53-foot mosasaur, like one discovered at the fossil park site, a statement from the school said.

The Edelmans, Rowan alumni, “gave $25 million to develop it as a unique research ecosystem that supports scientific, undergraduate and ‘citizen science’ opportunities,” the statement said. “Pre-pandemic, the park hosted thousands of visitors per year, from school kids on bus trips to business people and community leaders, all of whom are drawn to the prospect of finding genuine, Late Cretaceous-era, fossils.”

When completed, visitors to the site will be able again to dig for fossils and keep many of their finds as souvenirs. Some of the discoveries, however, will be kept for further research.

Just a few hundred square yards of the 65-acre site have been fully excavated but have still yielded more than 50,000 cataloged marine and terrestrial fossils, from reptilian mosasaurs to sea turtles, sharks, bony fish, coral and clams, the university said.

An economic impact study conducted ahead of the museum’s construction predicted that an estimated 200,000 or more fossil hunters will visit the park and museum each year, producing more than $300 million in economic activity over a 10-year period after its planned opening in 2023.

The fossil park is on the site of a former industrial sand pit. Archeologists have already turned up a fossil of the largest prehistoric crocodile ever found and researchers, led by Lacovara, expect to turn up more important finds.

“Thanks to the foresight and generosity of Jean and Ric Edelman, we are building a world-class tourism and educational destination that will transform the region and do great good,” Lacovara told NJ Advance Media in 2019.

New Jersey was once underwater on prehistoric Earth and the fossils on site are buried in sand as opposed to being encased in rock like archeological finds in other parts of the country. It’s one of the things that makes the fossil park unique, the university said.

Visitors to the site will have a chance to dig in areas of lesser significance, but still lined with fossils of prehistoric finds. But they must also sign a waiver allowing the university to claim any finds of historical significance.

In New Jersey, fossilized remains of several late Cretaceous-era dinosaurs and reptiles have been found along a stretch of what used to be a shallow marine environment from Atlantic Highlands in Monmouth County, through Middlesex, Mercer, Burlington and Gloucester down to Salem County and present-day Delaware.

The green sand “marl” found along this stretch of shallow water was perfect for preserving fossils of cow sharks and mosasaurus, 50-foot extinct carnivorous aquatic lizards.

A series of tweets criticizing Republicans and their Christian conservative allies put state Motor Vehicle Commission chief administrator B. Sue Fulton on the defense Thursday as the Senate Armed Services Committee considered her nomination as assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs.

“I think you’ve got some explaining to do,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.C.

Fulton, who lives in Asbury Park, was part of the first West Point graduating class that included women and was the first openly gay member of the academy’s board of visitors.

If all 50 Senate Democrats hold firm, Fulton’s nomination will not be in any danger.

Still, it led to some uncomfortable moments, beginning when Rounds called her out for a Jan. 12, 2018, tweet saying, “Let’s be real. When one of our two national political parties is unable to call out racism, our system is broken. It’s not a political statement to say the GOP is racist; it’s a moral statement, and one backed up by an increasing mountain of evidence.”

“In the Department of Defense, we really do our best to try to keep inflammatory or partisan activities to a minimum,” Rounds said in referencing that tweet. “Your posts are pretty tough on Republicans. In fact, you go out of your way in many, many cases to really attack Republicans on a very personal level. This is concerning to me.”

Fulton apologized for the tweet, saying it was a poor attempt to make a point.

“My intent was to say that racism isn’t Democratic or Republican, that’s it’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue and the party should make a statement because a whole group of people should never be tarnished by the actions of one,” she said.

“But I went about it all wrong. The words are muddled and confused and I deeply regret them.

She later apologized for other tweets criticizing Christian conservatives, like this one from June 30, 2014: “Once again, ‘religious freedom’ twisted to mean conservative Christians can dictate their beliefs to the rest of us.”

“I have deeply apologized and I do again,” Fulton said in response to questioning from U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.

Republican lawmakers, silent when Donald Trump used Twitter to attack his opponents and spread lies about voter fraud in the 2020 election that got him kicked off the social media site, have been outraged this year over old tweets from some of President Joe Biden’s nominees.

Such objections helped kill the nomination of Neera Tanden to be Biden’s head of the Office of Management and Budget.

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