By Rebecca Flannery
The Waco Mammoth Site is on its way to becoming internationally recognized after National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis toured the site Monday.
Raegan King, director for the Waco Mammoth Site, said Jarvis was overwhelmed with the public support Waco showed at Monday’s citywide meeting held at the Mayborn Museum Complex.
“Jarvis touring and meeting with the city was one of the more important pieces of the puzzle in getting national recognition for the park,” King said.
Jeff Goodman, program administrator for the Waco Department of Parks and Recreation, said after Jarvis was given an interpretive tour of the site, he was eager to hear what community members had to say.
“There were over 200 people in the theater of the Mayborn,” Goodman said. “When director Jarvis turned the program over to the audience, there was such a positive electricity in the room.”
Goodman said the audience was 100 percent in favor of the site becoming nationally recognized. If approved by officials in Washington, D.C., the site would join 15 other national parks in Texas, which benefitted the state $173.4 million from tourism in 2013, according to the National Park Service website.
“Getting the site recognized would provide resources to the park that we couldn’t do otherwise,” Goodman said. “Preservation, paleontological and scientific research would be gained from the certification.”
Because the National Park Service is an internationally recognized brand, the Waco Mammoth Site would be economically and visibly benefited, Goodman said.
“This would put us in the national park registry,” King said. “It would bring our Waco site to a worldwide audience.”
The city park has been considered for national park status since the early 2000s, King said.
“The park was created per the standards of the National Park Service in hopes it would one day gain national recognition,” King said. “It’s already set up and prepared to become certified.”
Baylor’s staff, students and volunteers excavated the site after the first bone discovery in the 1970s, a process that took over 30 years, according to the Mammoth Site website.
“Though the first bones were discovered in the 1970s, the site remained closed to the public until the end of 2009,” according to the website.
Both King and Goodman said they don’t know how long the process will take to become certified, but are confident it will certainly happen.
“It could be a month, it could be three months,” Goodman said. “At this point, it’s like playing darts in the dark, but we’re very optimistic and encouraged by the community.”
Jarvis said at the city meeting he will be going back to D.C. with a high recommendation for the Waco Mammoth Site.