Pair of grants to bring Chamberlain dinosaur fossil-themed playground

With Chamberlain’s history of prehistoric fossils being discovered in the area, Chamberlain City Commissioner Hannah Ruhlman said the dinosaur playground will make a fitting addition to the community.

Shown here is the mosasaur sculpture in central Chamberlain, which is directly next to the area where the city is set to build a dinosaur fossil themed playground. (Photo courtesy of Chamberlain)

A new dinosaur fossil playground that’s soon to be built in Chamberlain will take kids back in time to the prehistoric age.

After receiving a $25,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation, the city of Chamberlain is gearing up to construct a dinosaur fossil playground that will provide kids with an interactive park experience, in which they can dig through the sand to uncover fossils replicating prehistoric dinosaurs.

With Chamberlain’s history of prehistoric fossils being discovered in the area, Chamberlain City Commissioner Hannah Ruhlman said the dinosaur park will make a fitting addition to the community.

“When this grant came available we thought we would have the theme for the playground be dinosaur-themed to be in line with the mosasaur fossil that was found a while back in the Missouri River near Chamberlain, which is a cool piece of the town’s history,” Ruhlman said.

Roughly a decade ago, a team of South Dakota paleontologists discovered a 10 foot mosasaur fossil along the Missouri River bluffs near Chamberlain. The aquatic reptiles are believed to have lived over 60 million years ago during the Mesozoic era, known as the age of the dinosaurs.


After the team of paleontologists from the South Dakota School of Mines uncovered the mosasaur fossil, a group constructed a sculpture of a mosasaur to replicate the groundbreaking discovery. Considering the mosasaur sculpture in Chamberlain is for display purposes only, Ruhlman said the prehistoric fossil playground would allow kids to be more interactive by digging through the sand to find fossils, helping channel the desire of touching the sculpture.

“There has been this lone mosasaur replica on its own, so we wanted to help build around it,” Ruhlman said. “This playground would give kids a place nearby to actually play and get their hands busy and feel like they are paleontologists.”

The $57,500 playground project that’s set to be built in the central part of Chamberlain next to the mosasaur sculpture near Saukerson baseball field is also being funded with the help of the Barger Foundation -- the group that built the mosasaur replica. The Barger Foundation is pitching in $25,000 to match the Wellmark grant.

With plans to have the playground constructed by spring 2022, Ruhlman said there’s plenty of excitement going around in anticipation of the new prehistoric playground.

“Everybody is just really excited about this playground. Some teachers I talked to said they could use this as a learning experience for a field trip destination as well,” Ruhlman said.

Related Topics: CHAMBERLAIN
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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