Donner Memorial museum opening delayed to late 2014

Margaret Moran
A closed sign can be seen at the newly constructed Donner Memorial State Park museum, while the currently used Emigrant Trail Museum is reflected in the background. The new museum is expected to open in late 2014.
Margaret Moran / | Sierra Sun

If you go

What: Donner Memorial State Park

Where: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee

Phone: 530-582-7892


TRUCKEE, Calif. — Opening of the new Donner Memorial State Park museum has been delayed again.

The approximately 10,000-square-foot building should open in summer or fall 2014 “barring any unforeseen circumstances,” said Vicky Waters, deputy director of public affairs for California State Parks.

The main holdup is an appeal to an awarded exhibit contract bid for the museum, Waters said, and until the California Department of General Services makes a decision, state parks cannot move forward.

As of late Tuesday, Waters said state parks has yet to hear from DGS on the matter.

The building located at the state park just east of Donner Lake was slated to open in early 2014 after weather and design challenges pushed back its original fall 2013 opening, according to previous reports.

The museum will feature exhibits on the Donner Party, regional Native American history, history of railroad development through Donner Pass and highway construction, among others. A former working title for the building was “High Sierra Crossing Museum.”

The facility will open on a “limited basis” for walking tours this fall, Waters said.

In the meantime, visitors will continue to have access to the existing Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner Memorial State Park, which depicts the history of the area along with the Donner Party, local Native Americans and builders of the transcontinental railroad.

Due to the Emigrant Trail Museum’s small size, structural deficiencies, ADA issues and high energy costs, it was found to be more cost effective to build a new museum rather than remodel the existing building, according to state parks.

Cost to construct the museum was roughly $6 million, not including “soft costs” such as permits and design fees, said Bill Johnson, construction manger for California State Parks.

Construction began in May 2011, coming at a time when the California State Parks system was in the middle of its well-documented run of financial struggles.

Project funding is provided by the Federal Highway Administration under the Intermodel Surfaces Transportation Enhancement Act grant administered by Caltrans, among other sources.

Upon project completion, the Emigrant Trail Museum building will be used for archival storage, training and office and meeting room space, according to previous reports.

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