Luck Stone’s Dino Walk Educates the Public on Its Extensive Dinosaur Tracks – and Its Business.
By Therese Dunphy
Throughout nearly a century of operation, Luck Stone’s Culpeper Plant has mined approximately 20 million tons of stone from the site, leading to an interesting discovery: dinosaur tracks. The first tracks were found at the Virginia operation in the mid-1970s. These early finds were not well defined, but as excavation continued, clear tracks were discovered 100 ft. below the originals.
Since then the quarry has become known to geologists and paleontologists throughout the world. More than 2,000 individual dinosaur tracks form lines that crisscross over a six-acre rock bed, making it one of the most extensive discoveries of the late Triassic period.
In 2002, Luck Stone acquired the quarry. Mining is now driven toward a different part of the pit in order to preserve the tracks of the prehistoric creatures. While people could see the tracks on an informal basis for several years, Luck Stone partnered with the Museum of Culpeper History to create a day of guided tours into the pit, and the Dino Walk was born in 2015.
“The Luck Stone Culpeper Plant provides an incredible opportunity for the public to see one of the largest known sets of dinosaur tracks,” noted Morgan Pierce, executive director of the Museum of Culpeper History.
Opening Its Doors for Dino Walk
Since its inception, Dino Walk has become so popular that tickets often sell out in a few hours. In 2019, 1,000 tickets were sold, and more than 100 people were wait-listed. “I know that we’ve had visitors from Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Florida, as well as from all parts of Virginia and West Virginia,” said Ronnie Fellers, environmental coordinator for Luck Stone’s Northern Region. He has participated in each Dino Walk and has seen the excitement grow each year. “One woman told me that she got on her computer at 4:00 a.m. because she didn’t want to miss out on getting tickets.”
Ticketholders get specific time slots. At the appointed time, they drive into the quarry under escort by Luck Stone volunteers and spend about an hour seeing the exhibit. Luck Stone provides squirt guns to spray the tracks for greater visibility on the rock bed. “We have circled some of the tracks, and we give a little talk about how they were found, and then we say that there are lots more to find,” he explained. “Then, they take off running to look for them.”
Some children know more about the dinosaurs than the adults. Fellers had one five-year-old boy who was telling people about the time period of the site’s tracks. “I told his mother that he should lead the talk instead of me!” he said.
One of the best aspects of the event, Fellers said, is seeing the multi-generational appeal of dinosaurs. “I talked with a man whose parents brought him to see the tracks around 1990, and last year, he brought his young sons to the Dino Walk,” he added. “It’s so cool that three generations of his family have walked in the footsteps of dinosaurs at our quarry.”
Educating the Public
Fellers and his colleagues who guide the tours not only provide background on the dinosaur tracks, but also on the quarry itself and how its products are used. “Their staff members are knowledgeable and helpful tour guides,” Pierce noted. “We are so grateful for Luck Stone’s partnership on this well-attended event that helps to support our community museum and its educational programs and exhibits.”
“We love partnering with them,” Fellers said. “It gives us a chance to tell the public what we do. When you bring people in and show them what you do, it takes away some of the fear of the unknown. We see it as a win-win.
“My favorite thing is showing the community what we do and explaining how Luck Stone is committed to safety, being a good neighbor, and preserving the environment,” he added. “The fact that we also have awesome dinosaur tracks is an added bonus.”
Therese Dunphy has covered the aggregates industry for nearly 30 years, while also serving multiple roles as a public official. As the owner of Stone Age Communications, she provides communications consulting services to help aggregate producers build stronger relationships within the communities they serve. She can be reached at [email protected].
Good Neighbor: Luck Stone’s Culpeper Plant
Event: Dino Walk
Next Dino Walk: Sept. 12, 2020