Apple Valley’s Dinosaur Park – by Myra McGinnis
If you drove north on Central Avenue in Apple Valley, about 3 miles from Highway 18, a strange sight might give you a moment surprise: a group of dinosaurs would appear on the horizon. This meant figures represent the work of Lonnie Coffman, a soft-spoken, wiry, energetic man, who, in the 1960s, began the building of his childhood fantasy a dinosaur park.
With his Midwestern family to board to provide recreational trips and entertainment, Coffman spent much of his childhood in the public library reading about prehistoric animals and dreaming of the park he would someday build for other children to enjoy. According to a former neighbor, Rose McHenry, he worked from dawn until dark every day on his hobby. He never charged the busloads of schoolchildren that visited the park, climbing over this meant replicas, and listening to the man, usually of few words, expound on the life of the dinosaur.
He had written to Washington to get the exact measurements of Noah’s Ark to add to his collection, when, after 12 years of personal funding, his savings ran out. Coffman appealed to the county for help to continue building his 17 1/2 acre park, but was turned down. He had no other recourse but to give up his dream. According to Mrs. McHenry, Lonnie Coffman left the area about 1982 a heartbroken man, leaving his concrete dinosaurs to the winds and sands of the desert.
Adapted from Mojave V – Mohahve Historical Society
Courtesy the Goble Collection – Valley-wide newspapers