SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Most of us have some sort of yard art out on the lawn or in our gardens, like some sort of cement sculpture or a little garden gnome.
But one Bluff City man and his friends have turned their yard art into a dinosaur park. It began as a small child with a thirst for all he could learn about dinosaurs.
A trip though Chris Kastner's backyard is a trip into a world of dinosaurs. He has taken a life-long fascination and turned it into his own personal Jurassic Park. "I was five years old. I'm sure my Mom bought me a dinosaur of some sort. I believe it was a little plush one but hey, it just started me off. I played outside in the dirt, digging around playing I was a paleontologist. I wanted to be a paleontologist originally," Kastner said.
He tells us that he's more of an armchair paleontologist these days, but what you see in his backyard is as close to the real thing as he can get. "We make [the models] as accurate as we possibly can. I take all of the latest knowledge. I do my research first, find out everything I can and do the measurements just to make them as accurate and up-to-date as possible," he says.
And you're invited to visit his creation free of charge, although you may of course make a donation so that the backyard park can expand. "We don't make a dime off this. Everything that we make we take in for donations goes right back into making even more of them, just for helping kids be able to experience dinosaurs. We just want to share it with them to teach them how to discover things and enjoy our natural world. That's what it's about, taking an interest in the past and what's been here before," he said.
It sounds like he wants to light that same fire for these creatures that he discovered when he was a kid, and now look where's it led. "I started drawing dinosaurs, stuff like that. I said I'll be a paleontologist or I'll be an artist. I'll do something and this is where it went," he says.
Where it went is a dream that he wants to share with everyone.
Chris' park is in Bluff City. The address is 1065 Walnut Grove Road.