Plains Conservation Center
The Plains Conservation Center is an outdoor education facility and state-designated natural area located in Colorado. Its motto is to preserve Colorado's prairies, educate children about Colorado's eco-history, and nurture conservation efforts. The center comprises two sites totaling approximately 8,894 acres (35.99 km2) of land. The main site is located on 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) in Aurora and the second site is south of Strasburg on 7,960 acres (32.2 km2) bisected by West Bijou Creek. The center is in part funded by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, and is a non-profit organization.
The land that is currently part of the Aurora site was once part of the railroad. The city of Denver bought the land in 1933, and the land later became federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. An education center was established in 1949, and in 1969 a group of sod structures were built. In 1997 the West Arapahoe Conservation District sold 1,100 acres to the City of Aurora; about 500 additional acres were sold for private development, with revenue from the private sale used to buy the West Bijou Creek site in Strasburg.
The West Bijou site has been identified as an important site for the study of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs; one source calls it "the most complete single K-T boundary section found in nonmarine rocks". An expansion of the site under the auspices of the Trust for Public Land, along with the addition of a conservation easement to protect the entire property from development, was announced in December 2012. The integrity of the West Bijou site has also been protected by the addition of a conservation easement on adjoining ranch land.
A feature of the site is a herd of wild pronghorn. Pronghorn can run up to 70 miles per hour and are not directly related to deer. They are the sole surviving member of the Antilocapridae, a group of artiodactyl ruminants most closely related to the giraffe and Okapi.
At its Aurora location, the Plains Conservation Center operates several facilities that are open to the public on Saturdays.
- A nature center in the Front Range building with natural history exhibits, live animals and a resource library.
- Wells Crossing pioneer farm - includes two replicated homesteads, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, barn, chicken coop and heirloom garden.
- Cheyenne Camp - four Cheyenne-style tipis with replicated 1830s Native American artifacts.
- A picnic shelter building and a picnic pavilion
The center offers a variety of programs for individuals and groups that cover such topics as natural history, pioneer life, Native Americans, art, crafts, farming and other subjects.
The West Bijou property contains no facilities, and visitors must be escorted.
- Danilov, Victor J. (June 2000). Colorado museums and historic sites. University Press of Colorado. pp. 40–41. ISBN 9780870815720. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
- "Looking in on a plains homestead, just southeast of Denver. (Plains Conservation Center, Aurora, Colorado)", Sunset, May 1, 1990 – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- Betsy Lehndorff, "Sod Homes Blend Into Prairie", Rocky Mountain News, October 20, 2001 – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- "Aurora Zoning Hearing Tonight", Rocky Mountain News, January 8, 1997 – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- "The PCC Story" at Plains Conservation Center official website (accessed 2012-01-13).
- Ann Schrader, "Denver team close to solving geologic puzzle", The Denver Post, November 28, 2000.
- Douglas J. Nichols, Kirk R. Johnson, Plants and the K-T Boundary (Cambridge University Press, 2008), ISBN 978-0521835756, pp. 123ff. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- "Dinosaur Ranch Protected", Trust for Public Land, December 19, 2012.
- Joey Bunch, "Keeping a hand on the land: Hasenbalg family of Arapahoe County uses easement as buffer against growth", The Denver Post, July 4, 2007.
- Stone, Tammy (1997). "An Intensive Archaeological Survey of the Plains Conservation Center, Arapahoe County, Colorado". Western Central High Plains Archaeological Research Project Survey (Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Denver).
- Zeiner, Helen Marsh (Spring 1976). "Grass Flora of the Plains Conservation Center". The Green Thumb (Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado Forestry and Horticultural Association) 35: 15.
- Danilov, Victor J. (2002). "Plains Conservation Center". Museums and historic sites of the American West. Greenwood Press. p. 200. ISBN 9780313309083.