Dinosaur Town With Volcano Toilets
After driving down the main street of Granger, Washington, a traveler might conclude that it was either the site of the world's greatest prehistoric fossil discovery, or that the town was built on the ruins of a defunct dino theme park.
But only one dinosaur bone fragment has been found in all of Washington State (and nowhere near Granger). And sorry -- no theme park.
Yet a green velociraptor, a yellow stegosaurus, a brown triceratops -- over 30 cement dinos in all -- fill the town park and spill northward into downtown.
"We just happen to like dinosaurs," said city clerk and treasurer Alice Koerner. "And kids happen to love dinosaurs. And when you're traveling with your family, it's usually the kids that decide where you go."
Unlike the cement creatures of Rapid City, which publicize South Dakota's real fossil bounty, Granger's dinosaurs promote an alternate universe -- a universe that took decades of work and tons of cement to make real. It's the kind of utopian thinking and dogged effort we appreciate.
(Ginko Gem Shop in Vantage, next door to a "forest" of petrified wood, also lures tourists with mythical Washington State dinos.)
The first Granger dinosaur went up in the early 1990s, "just a gimmick, really," according to Public Works director Jack Burns. People liked it, so others gradually followed, all designed and built by Jack and his crew.
"That first one was absolutely prehistoric," said Jack, with no pun intended. "We used anything we could find around the shop to hold the cement: oil cans, milk jugs, wadded up paper." Recent creations are more sophisticated, such as a wire-frame spinosaurus near the freeway exit, and a tyrannosaurus rex that seems to be busting out of the Public Works garage. But the standard dinosaur is a pipe skeleton covered with metal mesh and then slathered with cement. Granger's annual Dino-in-a-Day (usually the first Saturday in June) invites the public to participate in dinosaur construction.
Many of the prehistoric beasts are in Hisey Park on the town's south side, such as a styrofoam plesiosaurus that floats in the paddleboat pond. Most are kid-friendly and invite climbing. Driving into town reveals more dinos, including two that stand outside of competing drive-thru espresso huts: Dino Java (brontosaurus) and Jurassic Java (pterodactyl).
A large map at the entrance to town promises to locate every Granger dinosaur, but it was outdated years ago by Granger's busy Public Works Department. "We're all a bunch a farm boys, " said Jack, "but we've refined this thing down to a science and an art."
So who came up with the idea of encasing Granger's public toilets in a volcano? Jack was discreet in his answer. "Who knows?" he said. "It's a collective collaboration." Alice remembered that a man named Chuck was somehow involved, but couldn't recall his last name.
"For a while the volcano actually spit out smoke, like it was erupting," she said. "But it's broken now." We wondered, with the Granger public works wizards ever tinkering, was the volcano set to erupt whenever someone flushed? Alice didn't think so, but agreed that "We need to fix it."