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Waco community needs access to mammoth site

Nov. 3, 2005

EDITORIAL STAFF

For more than 70,000 years, the remains of at least 24 mammoths have been preserved in Central Texas. Centuries ago, a disastrous mudslide claimed the ancient mammals' lives.

In 1978, two citizens discovered the remains near the Bosque River. Over the years, the area has become a project of interest through Baylor and the city of Waco.

But three years ago, paleontologists' suggestions led to Baylor and Waco shutting down the mammoth area from visitations and excavation. Now it's only open for research.

Preserving Waco's mammoth site as a national park would put a spotlight on the largest herd killed in a single catastrophic event. Also, there are only two other national parks in Texas -- Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains -- both of which are in West Texas.

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Ben Humeniuk | Lariat staff
Although many of the mammoth bones have been preserved in the Strecker Museum at the Mayborn Museum Complex, the site still needs to be protected from erosion and vandalism. The city is working with U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, to build a temporary enclosure to protect the site, which could cost up to $700,000 and could lead to limited public access.

The site has great educational potential, from field trips for schoolchildren to geology work for college students.

Even if the government deems Waco's site significant, it could still take many years for officials to formally make this decision. Something needs to be done now to ensure the mammoth site is protected.

One solution is that the temporary site could be open to anyone willing to pay a viewing fee. Opening it up to visitors after it has been adequately protected could help pay for some of the construction costs.

Last week, at a focus meeting conducted by the National Park Service, some Waco residents offered suggestions for the mammoth site.

Good ideas they pointed out include running a ferry from the rear entrance of the Mayborn to the mammoth site on the Brazos. Others suggested things like gift shops and tours to boost funding.

The site would be a huge economic boon to the Waco community. We need to do as much as possible to make it succeed.