| Editorial | Fossil fervor may bring good things to South Jersey |

| Editorial | Fossil fervor may bring good things to South Jersey | ...

The fake dinosaurs are slated to leave the Philadelphia Zoo at the end of the month, but soon, youll be able to walk in the footsteps of real ones, right in Mantua Township.

Prehistoric creatures are so fascinating, especially to children, that youre always bound to find nearby some sort of traveling animatronic show like Big Time, which featured 24 life-size robots in residence at the zoo. The impressive representations are realistic, and also designed by a renowned expert from Delaware County, Pa. Therefore, no harm is intended to the mechanized T-rex, Dakotaraptor, and the other temporarily living near the Schuylkill Expressway.

The Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park, when completed, will however be a completely different experience in arguably untouched quarry where the real specimens once lived. The 65-acre site, which was only partially excavated to this point, has already provided archeologists amateurs and those with advanced degrees alike - with a treasure trove of fossils, among other evidence, of the tigers that roamed there 66 million years ago. A Dryptosaurus, the first discovered tyrannosaur, was discovered in 1866 a mile from the fossil park. The site itself has yielded a 53-foot mosasaur.

The upgrading of the property, which has already hosted a number of community gatherings and dozens of school outings, is funded in large part by the Edelmans. Rowan alumni have contributed $25 million of its estimated $73 million budget. Last weekend, a groundbreaking ceremony took place. Rowan purchased the former Inversand Quarry (which one nj.com headline at the time called a dinosaur graveyard) in 2015 for academic research.

The 44,000-square-foot museum portion, according to Rowan, is expected to open by May 2023 and will accommodate 200,000 visitors a year. That attendance level would make the area a major tourist attraction, something Gloucester County and the surrounding counties dont have.

There will be replicas, artifact galleries, live animals, interactive displays, and more among the exhibits. Meanwhile, the educational part continuing research will continue, with Rowan having established its School of Earth & Environment. Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, the school's founding dean, has been appointed as the director of the fossil park, as well.

The trick for Rowan and the exhibitors will be walking the fine line between scientific and educational pursuits while also presenting a facility that will attract not only scholars, but also families willing to learn something, as long as theyre not bored. Edelman must emphasize the interesting while also staying away from the tacky when it comes to Jurassic Park attractions.

With the approachable Lacovaras direction, this should not be a problem. Hes the star of a renowned TED talk on paleontology and numerous recorded lectures with intriguing titles like We are all walking natural history museums.

Now that one of the nations foremost dinosaur whisperers is in the house, county and regional tourism departments should also increase. The Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park is located not far from the Route 55 freeway, a coincidence not imaginable in 1866. Tours that include the Jersey Shore are imaginable, but it will take marketing savvy and collaboration among agencies that have often been lacking in promoting South Jerseys current wealth.

Theres too much potential for it to go extinct.

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