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Plains Conservation Center
Cheyenne Camp, Plains Conservation Center, Colorado.jpg
View of Cheyenne Camp looking east at the Plains Conservation Center
Type History museum and nature preserve
Location 21901 E Hampden Av
Aurora, Colorado
Area 1,100 acres (450 ha) in Aurora
Created 1949
Website AuroraGov.org

The Plains Conservation Center is an outdoor education facility and state-designated natural area in Aurora, Colorado. Its mission is to preserve Colorado's prairies, educate children about Colorado's eco-history, and nurture conservation efforts. The center comprises two sites totaling approximately 8,894 acres (35.99 km2) of land. The main site is located on 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) in Aurora and the second site is south of Strasburg on 7,960 acres (32.2 km2) bisected by West Bijou Creek. The Aurora property is owned by the Aurora Parks, Recreation and Open Space department.

History

The land that is currently part of the Aurora site was once part of the railroad. The city of Denver bought the land in 1933, and the land later became federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. An education center was established in 1949, and in 1969 a group of sod structures were built. In 1997 the West Arapahoe Conservation District sold 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) to the City of Aurora; about 500 additional acres (2 km2) were sold for private development, with revenue from the private sale used to buy the West Bijou Creek site in Strasburg.

West Bijou site

The West Bijou site has been identified as an important site for the study of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs; one source calls it "the most complete single K-T boundary section found in nonmarine rocks". An expansion of the site under the auspices of the Trust for Public Land, along with the addition of a conservation easement to protect the entire property from development, was announced in December 2012. The integrity of the West Bijou site has also been protected by the addition of a conservation easement on adjoining ranch land. In November 2016, the West Bijou Site was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

A feature of the site is a herd of wild pronghorn.

Activities

The Aurora site features a historic schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and barn, an heirloom garden and a chicken coop, and a recreated Cheyenne camp with tipis. The Learning Center and library are open to schools and groups. Special seasonal events and education programs are offered through Denver Botanic Gardens.

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