FY10 City budget hearing dominated by urban neighborhoods, city worker complaints
BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for June 2, 2009

Vandal "rex" Life & Science bronto, relegates loved statue to extinction

Mls_bronto Real dinosaurs had their asteroid.

The fake Museum of Life & Science "dinosaur trail" version had some vandals in a vehicle, tire tracks still in view.

But the result's the same: the fondly-felt north Durham museum staple is missing its head and most of its neck, in a story that's bizarre enough to be gathering attention not just from bloggers and listservs, but from both area papers and most of the TV stations in this local news cycle. (See photo at right, from the MLS' online collection of bronto photos.)

Sometime late Sunday night or Monday morning, what the Herald-Sun describes as "the steel and plaster behemoth" lost its head, with the chain-link fencing having been pulled down around the statue, and tire tracks in plain sight on the greenway trail's edge, according to Neil Offen's account.

Now there's just a rusty steel beam sitting where the dino icon's neck and head used to be.

The Museum is working to complete a new dinosaur trail later this year (sans this decades-old brontosaurus, even before it got all French Revolutioned), and the N&O reports that the nearby Northgate Park neighborhood had hoped to find a way to restore this beloved old version. The McClatchy paper still holds out hope that the 'hood could salvage the statue, but the H-S' Offen reports otherwise:

While [Northgate Park VP Nancy] Rizzo floated the idea of a neighborhood fundraiser to help repair the brontosaurus, a new dinosaur trail is set to open this summer and Taneka Bennett, marketing director at the museum, acknowledged that there would be no point in trying to repair the old boy. And the museum, she said, is aware it also cannot replace the history and emotional connection the community has to the old dinosaur trail. 

For more online reaction, check out Steve Graff's Geer Farmhouse blog, or over at Barry's Dependable Erection blog, where my radio show co-host points to this as an example of the "broken windows" theory, and takes the City to task for allowing low-level quality-of-life crimes to go unchallenged, leading to bigger public safety issues, though to date no statement has been issued from the DPD or the City on the matter. From Barry's blog:

That refrain gets pretty tired. What happened to "no problem is too big to be solved or too small to matter?" Where's the attitude from our city's leaders that "we're going to do whatever it takes to make Durham great?" We're always going to have "a bigger problem" to deal with. The dinosaur trail, however inaccurate science has rendered it over the past 50 years, remains a significant cultural touchstone in the lives of thousands of people who grew up in Durham. It would be truly a shame if our elected and appointed officials adopted the attitude that this trivial bit of vandalism is insignificant enough that they don't need to devote resources to finding the perpetrators.

(BCR's utterly uninformed guess: well, it's high school graduation time, and this has 'bad senior prank' written all over it.)

Meanwhile, Northgate Park resident and local notable Mike Shiflett has offered a $100 reward for information leading to the arrest of those involved in the prehistoric peccancy.



A few years back i attended a NPNA meeting where the son of the man who built the dinosaurs stopped in to talk with the neighbors about the best way to restore them (Can't for the life of me remember his name now, but i'm sure some of your readers will remember for me.)

They were, essentially, a labor of love. Those labors need to be remembered and celebrated.

My guess - the vandals were probably a couple of years older than your upcoming high school grad. And probably didn't grow up in Durham.


that is so sad!

Maybe an enterprising artist can take this on as a gift to the city? I'm sure there are ways to rebuilt it that don't cost gobs of money.


It's sad that the Museum does not value the Durham history embodied in this old bronto. If I had to guess, I would expect that it's a budgetary concern, but I bet a bunch of neighbors would be willing to help out. I'd certainly be willing to kick in some $$, and if appropriate volunteer labor to help restore this grand statue.

There may be some artistically inclined Durhamites that could connect with the family of the builder to figure out how to best re-build the beast.


I'm worried that because the city is letting brush grow up that even if we restored the beloved old bronto that we wouldn't be able to see the icon from the street anyway, which may have prompted some fools to steal it. I don't like how the city is handling letting brush grow up everywhere in our parks!

Lisa Dilts, Duke Park Neighborhood

The son of the bronto's original creator (Richard Wescott) is Watts-Hillandale resident Dusty Wescott (he's also my brother-in-law, and is an incredible artist/craftsperson in his own right). He too is saddened by the damage to this Durham icon!


Just read this on Barry's site - http://dependableerection.blogspot.com/2009/06/friggin-awesome.html

Appears the head and the crooks who stole and wrecked the piece were found.

Lisa Olds

I am a life long resident of Durham.When I was a young girl,friends and I would walk to the Northgate park and ( what was called at that time )the Children's Museum. I lived just around the corner.What a different world it was back then in the early 70's.I would hate to see this fellow not being replaced.I know someone can fix him and certainly others would be willing to fund the money.What a shame!Build a larger fence,but still have him viewable from the street.Let's don't let kids that have nothing better to do with their time destroy what has been meaningful to the rest of us.Please fix him back to health!!!!

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