I appreciate those who have supported the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute (paleolands.org) over the last few years. Our six active volunteers and one part-time paid staff person continue to provide information to thousands of visitors and educational programs to hundreds of students.

At our center in Fossil, and on our website, information on geologic resources and local community visitor services have been available 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Despite only having staff resources to open the center’s door for up to three days a week, in 2016, we continue to provide important services. We want to do more.

As part of our Center Sustainability Project, we have partnered with Bonneville Environmental Foundation (b-e-f.org) and are moving forward to install a solar photovoltaic system on the center in Fossil. This project will reduce our monthly utility cost for OPLI by producing more electricity than it uses. The project is also being designed to provide an emergency electrical source for the community should PUD electricity not be available. An informational kiosk will be on site to show visitors how our system works. An accompanying education program will be available to local educators that will include workshops and curriculum materials.

The board is recruiting for additional volunteers to help us move toward achieving our mission and expand our services.

We believe strongly that the center should be open at least five days a week during the peak visitor season from May through September. The center was built primarily with public money and should be open more to service citizens. More support is needed through increased financial support and additional volunteer commitment.

When the Oregon Paleo Project was started in 2002, the thought was that the institute could provide information and services that the National Park Services could not. It would be an organization to support the John Day Basin gateway communities by sharing what services were available where. We have been doing that, but we want to do more.

Our group has recently moved the plesiosaur sculpture off the floor to increase space available to accommodate visiting groups and new exhibits.

Please consider joining us to work toward fuller utilization of this valuable public resource and share the stories of the John Day River Basin. Come by and visit with our people and consider helping us build a stronger community-supported facility dedicated to sharing the wonders of the John Day Basin.

Jeffrey Kee, a Grant County ranch manager, is the board president of the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute, an educational, community-based nonprofit in Fossil.

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