A small army of mechanical dinosaurs are preparing to take over woods in Bradford – part of an attraction 65 million years in the making.
Dinosaur Discovery is based on land behind Tong Garden Centre in Tong Lane and once it opens will wow visitors with animatronic prehistoric beasts.
The brainchild of Christian Cristobal – a dinosaur enthusiast who has created several theme park attractions in the Far East – the interactive park is expected to open by spring.
He is opening his project in partnership with the garden centre, which will complement it by opening a new dinosaur-themed gift shop.
Once open, Mr Cristobal hopes to add new dinosaurs and features every few months.
The attraction will include animatronic dinosaurs, static beasts and hydraulic models that visitors will be able to control themselves, ranging from the early days of the Triassic era to the Ice Age.
As they walk through the lakeland woods there will be information about the different dinosaurs, which include a fierce Dilophosaurus, towering Tyrannosaurus Rex, Pteranodon and Velociraptor.
Other prehistoric creatures get a showing too. A woolly mammoth, neanderthal hunter and prehistoric snake are among the creatures that will find a home there. The creatures are made from a mix of silicone, rubber, foam and fabric, all wrapped around a metal skeleton.
Mr Cristobal has been hard at work since Bradford Council’s planning department gave the idea a roar of approval in October.
He has battled terrible winter weather to install the dino models and landscape the site so it could be open by spring. While the heavy wind and rain did not wipe the dinosaurs out like the fateful asteroid all those millions of years ago, it did cause some setbacks. One large dinosaur was blown into a lake on the site and had to be fished out and repaired.
The goal is for the park to be interactive and children will even be given a chance to become a dinosaur with a specially created costume that allows its wearers to walk with dinosaurs.
Mr Cristobal moved to Yorkshire from the Philippines more than a decade ago and has previously created ghost trains and similar attractions in China. He had wanted to set up a dinosaur attraction in the area for several years and after some research decided Tong Garden Centre would be the perfect place for it.
He said: “The site is really beautiful and the garden centre really liked the idea. It has been a big challenge to do it. We wanted to open by the end of February, but that seems impossible because of the weather. In the past few days dinosaurs have been blown over by the wind so we are going to have to re-build a few, but we will hopefully be open by spring.
“Most of the dinosaurs have been set up for animatronics. Every few months I’m going to upgrade them. With a dinosaur park, or any kind of attraction, it is a process of non-stop building. You have to have new things every few months to give people a reason to come back.
“I have so many ideas to keep upgrading the park. There is going to be an area where the kids will be able to operate some dinosaurs.”
He admits many people were sceptical about such an unusual plan, adding: “People were saying to me, ‘you must be crazy’. It just came out of nowhere.”
Despite this he has managed to turn around the bulk of the project in the space of a few months.
He said word of mouth of Dinosaur Discovery is already spreading and schools have already enquired about visits.
In the past few weeks his team, including artists and volunteers, have been working on decorating the dinosaurs and building the impressive Jurassic Park-style gates to the attraction.
While there are other parks in the UK where visitors can walk among dinosaurs, most of these have fibreglass or static models. The Tong dinosaurs will all have the ability to move and roar.
There will also be appearances by Mr Cristobal’s T-Rex costume, a mechanical suit that allows him to become a walking “king of the dinosaurs”.
Additions that he is already planning include a huge Brachiosaurus, a caveman dwelling and a prehistoric sea creature rising up from the lake which the dinosaurs are based around.
Angela Palmer, one of the garden centre managers, said: “We’re really looking forward to this opening up.
“When we were approached about it by Christian it sounded really different.”
She said that as well as a dinosaur gift shop there will be a new menu for the cafe to cater for the visitors and a play area.
Entrance fees have yet to be set, but Mr Cristobal hopes to keep them low that so families can visit multiple times.