Some 66 million years ago, herds of triceratops wandered this land.
Back in 1887, paleontologists discovered the first identified triceratops fossils in the Denver area.
Last weekend, a small herd of colorful geometric triceratops walked the grasslands again, at the intersection of 56th Avenue and Highway 93, just north of Golden.
The Cretaceous creations are the work of Golden sculptor Pat Madison, who might be a familiar name for folks who appreciate the public art already on display in the city. He created the swimming cutthroat trout sculptures in Parfet Park, as well as the butterflies that grace downtown.
“I like to do things that match the environment,” Pat Madison said, mentioning the trout and the butterflies as examples of showing wildlife in the location they naturally belong. The triceratops offers a prehistoric tie to that same theme.
Judy Madison, who taught for 25 years at Golden High School ,journeyed out to the open grass lot at the corner of 58th Avenue and Highway 93 on Oct. 10, to help install the sculptures.
“This guy is my best student.” she said gesturing to her husband. “In fact, he’s turned into a monster,” she added, laughing.
The sculptures themselves — consisting of a “daddy” triceratops of roughly lifelike proportions (more than 9 feet tall and 26 feet long), to two “mommies” of medium size, and a baby (about 5 feet high and 7 feet tail to snout) — are made of electrical conduit piping, crimped and bolted together in mostly triangular portions. some of the triangulated panes are filled in with spray-painted wood, some with shiny plastic. Pat Madison said he was largely inspired by the big blue bear sculpture (“I See What You Mean” by Lawrence Argent) that peeks in the window at the Colorado Convention Center, which is also made up of geometric shapes.
The Madisons say work on the baby triceratops began years ago, starting with the feet and just working upwards. Pat says working on the bigger members of the family in the last few months has been a good COVID-19 project.
“I just did it as I felt like it,” Pat Madison said.
Judy Madison admits she was a little sad to see all the dinos leave her yard, but Pat said he intends the entire family to stay together.
Sue Thompson, who is one of the owners of the property, said she had know the Madisons forever, and that the theme of the sculptures fit in well with her nonprofit, Wildlife Protection Services.
“It was probably just decided one night over beers,” she laughs about how the triceratops came to be on the property.
So for now, Pat Madison says the horned herbivores will call the grassy corner lot home, serving as a welcome of sorts for drivers headed south along Highway 93.
“I hope it makes them laugh and brightens up their life a little,” he said.