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Wildlife Rehabilitation Center reps have eye on a potential new home

By Tim Vandenack - | Jun 16, 2023

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner file photo

The outside of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden, photographed Thursday, June 15, 2023.

OGDEN — Facing removal from its current space near the George Eccles Dinosaur Park, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah has a lead on a new home on Washington Boulevard in Ogden.

“We’re moving as fast as we can,” said DaLyn Marthaler, executive director of the organization, which helps rehabilitate injured birds and other creatures from the wild. “We have located a place that we are going for. We have not secured it yet.”

The potential new home, previously a vacuum cleaner shop, is located at 332 Washington Blvd., but Ogden officials still must approve use of the site to care for animals.

Either way, Marthaler doesn’t envision the space as a permanent home, even if the plans materialize. It would serve as a temporary home to rehab animals as organization boosters go about raising funds to build or acquire a larger, more permanent facility.

It’s been a stressful time for rehabilitation center officials who received formal notice from the City of Ogden in early March that they had about six months to leave the city-owned building they’ve been using rent-free at 1490 Park Blvd., next door to the Dinosaur Park. The group had been using the space since 2011, but the city wants to vacate the structure so it can be razed as part of Dinosaur Park expansion plans. Per the 2010 agreement between the city and the rehabilitation center on use of the space, the city has authority to ask the organization to leave.

Image supplied, City of Ogden

The drawing shows a conceptual rendering of the George Eccles Dinosaur Park if expanded, as proposed. The new area would sit largely north of the Ogden River, but would also encompass the area where the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah building now sits, indicated by the area with the legend "TO BE DEMOLISHED."

The turn of events has sparked controversy, with some rehabilitation center backers asking city leaders to variously give the group more time or let it remain permanently. The city responded, saying it would give the rehabilitation center six additional months at the Park Boulevard location if it secures an agreement by Sept. 6 for new digs.

Backers, in turn, provided donations as rehabilitation center officials searched for a new home, which Marthaler indicated has been a silver lining, of sorts, in the process. “Our community is amazing. A big shout out to our community,” she said.

Still, even if the group moves into the 332 Washington Blvd. space, funds will be needed to prepare the structure for rehabilitation center operations. Moreover, a larger capital fundraising drive would continue for a more permanent space. The preliminary idea, if plans proceed, would be to eventually sell the Washington Boulevard structure and use the money toward the acquisition of a more permanent facility, according to Marthaler.

“Donations are needed right now,” she said.

Meantime, operations continue at 1490 Park Blvd. to complete the rehabilitation of critters that were already in the organization’s hands when news of the forced departure emerged. But the rehabilitation center is closed to accepting new animals given the uncertain circumstances.


City officials say the plan has long been to expand the Dinosaur Park, which figured in the decision to prod the rehabilitation center from 1490 Park Blvd. The Dinosaur Park is operated by a nonprofit foundation, but the city owns the buildings that house it and the land where it sits, as well as the land where the expansion would occur to the north of its current footprint.

However, an email started circulating this week on social media from John Patterson, the former chief administrative officer of Ogden, calling that narrative into question. Now retired and living in Herriman, Patterson took part in the negotiations with rehabilitation center reps back in 2010 that led to its occupancy of the 1490 Park Blvd. building beginning in 2011.

“After 12 years, no reasonable person would believe the ‘temporary’ agreement was ever to be terminated,” Patterson said in the email, subsequently posted and reposted on Facebook.

Patterson told the Standard-Examiner that the city, by law, couldn’t give the 1490 Park Blvd. building outright to the rehabilitation center. Thus, the agreement contained a clause saying the arrangement was temporary. The building had previously housed the city’s animal shelter, services now provided to Ogden by Weber County.

The deal “made a lot of sense,” Patterson said, because the city would’t have to pay utilities or upkeep on the building and it would be used for a worthy cause, saving wild animals.

As Patterson understood it, the rehabilitation center’s use of the structure was meant to be indefinite, presuming no problems with the operation. Moreover, he recalls no talk back in 2010 of expanding the Dinosaur Park.

That echos the recollection of Marthaler, who also took part in the 2010 negotiations. “There was no discussion at all of Dinosaur Park. We were under the understanding that was our forever home,” she said.

It may be a moot point as the rehabilitation center’s departure from their current location seems to edge ahead, but Marthaler thinks it’s important to note the mindset when negotiations originally took place given charges some are now levying as the controversy sizzles that her organization is a squatter or taking advantage of the city’s goodwill.

Jay Lowder, Ogden’s public services director, disputed the recollection of Marthaler and Patterson. The Dinosaur Park expansion has been “planned for a long time,” he said.

With the plans apparently ready to move forward, the time came to get the rehabilitation center out of the space. “They can’t expand while the wildlife people are there,” Lowder said.


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