At long last: New Donner Memorial museum to open June 6 | SierraSun.com

At long last: New Donner Memorial museum to open June 6

Staff report
Located just east of Donner Lake, the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center will officially open June 6.
Courtesy Sierra State Parks Foundation |

More info

What: Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center

Where: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Sunday, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

Phone: 530-582-7892

Online: parks.ca.gov/?page_id=503

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The long awaited opening of the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center is just around the corner.

On Saturday, June 6, the new visitor center east of Donner Lake will open to the public, with a special ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony marking the occasion.

The ceremony will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and include free parking and exhibit admission, and speeches by dignitaries. This takes place on the 97th anniversary of the Pioneer Memorial dedication.

The nearly 10,000-square-foot building will feature exhibits on regional Native American and natural history, the Donner Party and early pioneers, Chinese construction of the railroad through the Sierra, and the development of Interstate 80.

“The new visitor center will enhance our visitors’ experience, and will allow us to showcase the significance of the park in a more interactive and innovative manner,” Lisa Mangat, acting director for California State Parks, said in a statement. “Giving our visitors an array of different experiences will help us instill a strong sense of pride for the wonderful cultural and historical resources there are at Donner Memorial State Park.”

Construction on the $9.6 million center began mid-May 2011 — a time when the California State Parks system was in the middle of its well-documented run of financial struggles — and concluded in summer 2013.

Weather, design challenges and an appeal to an awarded exhibit contract bid for the museum delayed the facility from officially opening.

Prior to the official opening, the Sierra State Parks Foundation will host “A Night At The Museum” Gala fundraising event at 7 p.m. June 5 at the center.

Tickets are $150 each and are available through SierraStateParks.org, or by calling the SSPF office at 530-583-9911. Proceeds will go toward operational costs that are not covered by State Parks.

Through its ongoing fundraising efforts, SSPF has provided funding that allowed State Parks to hire a Donner Visitor Center Coordinator and maintenance support staff for the first year.

“Our parks are valuable cultural and natural resources that with continued Foundation collaboration will continue to be places of education and inspiration for generations to come,” SSPF board president Jerry Blackwill said in a statement.

Due to the current Emigrant Trail Museum’s small size, along with it having structural deficiencies, not being fully accessible under ADA guidelines and maintaining high energy costs, state parks found it more cost effective to build a new museum rather than remodel the existing building.

Upon the opening of the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center, the Emigrant Trail Museum building will be used for archival storage, training and office and meeting room space.