Plan in the works to build South Bend dinosaur museum

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:58 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The man who built a chocolate company that is synonymous with South Bend, today renewed his commitment to establish a dinosaur museum here.

Some jokingly refer to Mark Tarner as “Jurassic Mark.”

Tarner has quietly amassed quite a collection of dinosaur bones in his spare time.

“I don’t golf, don’t have a vacation home. I just love to work, and with this, it gives you purpose, you know.”

Mark Tarner has spent the past 29-years building his business called the South Bend Chocolate Company.

28 of those years have been profitable but one of them was nearly devastating. “You know, the virus almost brought us to our knees, and if it hadn’t been for the federal government, we’d have been out of business,” Tarner said.

Today Tarner is back on his feet, showing off his femurs, tail bones, and vertebrae.

“It’s from the Morrison formation from the Jurassic and if you see here, I mean, this is part of the bones, I mean we have over 600.”

The bones were found on private land Tarner leases at a ranch in Montana. Many of the bones were unearthed by Tarner himself, who says he typically spends about three weeks a year at the site.

Paleontologist Stacie Skwarcan has been to the site during the past three summers. “I think it’s really cool because you’re digging up these bones that have been covered up for at least 150-million years and this is the first time any human is seeing them.”

For now, the bones are being stored in warehouses in South Bend, awaiting the day Tarner can carry out his paused plans to pair his two passions—to build dinosaur and chocolate museums on a portion of an 88-acre site at U.S. 20 and the U.S. 31 Bypass.

Tarner says he wants the dinosaur museum to be interactive with kids working on real bones. “If we have fossilized turtles, I’m going to have real turtles,It’s going to be half zoo.”

Tarner believes the concept of a chocolate museum next to the dinosaur museum is unstoppable, and that the project could bring up to 100,000 visitors a year to town. I know, I’m betting everything on that its’ going to be a massive attraction for our community.”

Mark Tarner is expecting to break ground in April of next year and says he should have more details to release in about a month.

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