Big Changes Planned for Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2021

by Jon D. B.

The famous U.S. National Park, once home to President Theodore Roosevelt, is getting a nearly $200 million facelift in preparation for Roosevelt’s long-awaited Presidential Library.

2021 brings big – and expensive – changes for Theodore Roosevelt National Park. For one, the park will undergo long-awaited road repairs as part of their initiatives. In addition, the $5.5 million Peaceful Valley Ranch restoration project will (hopefully) wrap up this spring.

The developments come as park officials work closely with those planning the long-awaited Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library – a project over a century in the making. In a rare upswing of 2020, the library’s foundation managed to raise a staggering $100 million for construction of the project alone. This enables organizers to access $50 million in state operations funds to aid their efforts. Indeed, if all goes according to plan, Theodore Roosevelt National Park will feel quite different by the end of this year.

The national park is a woefully underutilized attraction for North Dakota. It encapsulates, and protects, much of the western state where the Great Plains meet the rugged Badlands. Here, big game like bison and elk roam free amid the brilliant ecosystems between the Painted Canyon, sections of the Little Missouri River, Scenic Loop Drive, and more. It’s heart, though, is the Maltese Cross Cabin, where President Theodore Roosevelt himself once lived.

Vast Road Repairs Set for Theodore Roosevelt National Park

During the COVID-19 pandemic, visitation has been far behind previous years. The addition of Roosevelt’s Presidential Library, along with much-needed road repairs, however, should change that.

For almost two years, park visitors have been unable to access the full South Unit’s scenic drive. As such, visitation for the Badlands, grassy prairies, and river bottomlands has dwindled even further. Everything from sinkholes to erosion has affected other roadways, as well, such as those that access the Badlands Overlook. In short: the park is in desperate need of its 2021 overhaul.

“I am just delighted that we have a funding source and that we have our geotechnical assessment wrapping up and that we’re ready for the next stages,” Park Superintendent Wendy Ross tells local Bismarck Tribune.

In addition, she notes that “Construction will rebuild a 6-mile stretch between the Old East Entrance Station pullout and the scenic drive’s loop junction.” If all goes according to plan, the park will complete all roadway construction by the end of 2022.

Historic Peaceful Valley Ranch Rehabilitation “Nearing Completion”

As the sun starts to set at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, trail riders return to Peaceful Valley Ranch. (Photo By JOEY MCLEISTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Moreover, “The rehabilitation and stabilization project at the historic Peaceful Valley Ranch in the South Unit began last spring and is nearing completion,” the newspaper adds.

Superintendent Ross expects this particular project to wrap up by April’s end. Everything from the buildings’ interiors and exteriors, to extensive work on the ranch house, log bunkhouse, and barn, have been a great success so far.

“They look like brand new buildings,” Ross lauds. She expects this renovation in particular will do wonders for the historical aspect of the park.

The historic ranch has been a staple of the region since the 1880s. It was then, a century and a half ago, that Theodore Roosevelt himself hunted and ranched in the area. The location served as park headquarters, too, from 1947 to 1959. In recent times, it was home to a horseback riding outfit but hasn’t seen use since their departure in 2014.

Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Begins Construction

As for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library itself, 2021 will be “the year.”

2021 sees the passing of this momentous project’s major hurdle, as well. Legislation passed during the Trump Administration, alongside the Library Foundation’s fundraising, will allow for construction to finally begin in late 2021.

“Included in the $2.3 trillion spending package recently signed by President Donald Trump was a provision for a land sale for 93 acres of U.S. Forest Service land eyed for the library near Medora,” Bismarck Tribune clarifies.

The anticipated project, over a century in the making, has found its designer, too. Norway- and New York-based architectural firm Snohetta was chosen to design Roosevelt‘s Presidential Library in the fall of 2020. The Library Project’s CEO, Ed O’Keefe, adds that everything will be done in partnership with Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the National Park Service. 

The entities will collaborate on “everything,” O’Keefe says. “The biggest and most critical component of the success of the library is the engagement of the local community and the partnership with the national park,” he adds.

Congruently, Park Superintendent Ross sees the partnership as “natural.”

“We are going to be working with (the) Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library board to see what their plans are and create what I would describe as a dispersed visitor experience that complements the library,” she clarifies.

$150 Million, and 112 Years, in the Making

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

In the end, 2021 will be a “really important, critical working year” for the project, O’Keefe says. And “it’s moving fast.”

All of this, grand partnerships and all, is possible due to the Presidential Library board’s incredible fundraising. The board announced last fall it had amassed $100 million in donations to fund the long-overdue tribute to President Theodore Roosevelt. As mentioned, their staggering success allows for an additional $50 million from the state’s operations endowment.

As a result, Theodore Roosevelt will finally receive his Presidential Library – 112 years after his last days in office.

O’Keefe’s organization isn’t stopping there, either. They’ve managed to raise an additional $2.5 million since last October. To this end, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will be, if funding is any indication, one for the ages.

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[Sourced: Bismark Tribune]