GERING – The Scotts Bluff National Monument Visitor Center reopened its doors on May 14. A ribbon cutting was held at 11 a.m. to help celebrate the event.
Dan Morford, superintendent at the Scotts Bluff National Monument, said, “Today, we had our ribbon cutting, which is the culmination of our addition to the visitor’s center and the renovation project that we had going on simultaneously, and brand-new exhibits. It’s been about 27 months that the building has actually been closed for a variety of reasons, but we are excited to have it open.”
Tony Kaufman, mayor of Gering, said this was “a great opportunity for the community. It’s been a long time coming. I know they’ve had COVID challenges like many across the country and our community has been no different, but we’re excited to get the facility open and get tourism flowing again in our communities.”
The visitor’s center now features all new exhibits, new restrooms, a new theater space, and a new parks store. The exhibits include interactive spaces. Guests can fill out a “Bluff Libs” story and, if they so choose, can leave it on the bulletin board for others to read. Guests can also try out the fair-trade machine where you can find out what might be a fair trade in the past.
Morford said, “I’ve been here for five years, and literally, the construction and the exhibits have been a huge, huge part of the work that I’ve been involved with. To see this come full circle from the groundbreaking in 2018, to today, is really fulfilling for me. I’m really excited for the staff and the community and our visitors as they come in because they’re going to have a different experience.”
Morford was also thrilled announce a new partnership.
“We are excited about a new partnership with Black Hills Parks and Forests Association,” he said. “They’re a nonprofit cooperative group. The National Park Service, as a whole, values the cooperative associations and these agreements very highly because they’re able to help and assist in our education. Sometimes it’s equipment or things like that that maybe we’re not able to do. They’re very key to our messages to our visitors and helping us support and they do that through the park store, which is new this year.”
“About three years ago, Dan had approached us about the possibility of becoming a partner with Scotts Bluff National Monument. As their project progressed, it looked like that was more and more an opportunity. We did have to bid for the opportunity to become a partner and we submitted the bid through the regional office. When we were selected, we were super excited. It happened last fall and as soon as we were selected, we started the process of looking at products and helping them to understand how we work,” said Patty Ressler, Executive Director at Black Hills Parks and Forests Association.
“As a as a nonprofit partner, a portion of our store sales will go back to the monument to help support their education and interpretive programs. We’re super excited about having the opportunity to host them.”
Black Hills Parks and Forests Association manages 16 locations throughout the Black Hills National Forest and the Nebraska National Forest.
“It was kind of a natural fit for us to have the opportunity to come to the monument team and help them out. We’re super excited. Our team worked really hard at making sure that we got all the all the products that they were looking for and a lot of site-specific products. And we wanted the store to have a complimentary look and feel to the new exhibits in the visitor center,” said Ressler.
Kaufman is also thankful for the partnership with the National Park Service and their commitment to the facility. “With a facility like this, we have over 3000 acres here that have been here for over 100 years. It’s good to see that the federal government would reinvest in the asset because it is a great one. It’s a gem of our community and we definitely have appreciated their partnership and their stewardship of the facility over the decades and look forward to more partnerships in the future.”
The event was originally set for 2020 during the Scotts Bluff National Monument’s 100th anniversary. It was postponed due to the pandemic.
Morford was very thankful for all of the community support for the project despite all of the challenges and he looks forward to what the future holds. The Visitor’s Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For more information, call the Visitor’s Center at 308-436-9700.