A visitor's center built by Victor Valley volunteers and intended for field trips by local students won't be opened to the public until a mile of dirt road is paved.

The March 29 episode of the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition television show featured the Almquist family and their exotic animal sanctuary, Forever Wild. The show's producers and an army of local builders built the Almquists a new 3,300 square foot house, upgraded the animals' living area and built a brand new visitors center.

The center houses dozens of poisonous reptiles, includes a kitchen for the preparation of food for the animals, and features an office and meeting area. All of which is fine, but the center's other purpose -- providing a destination for local residents to come and learn about exotic animals -- is on hold, due to the condition of Buttemere Road outside.

"We have a regulation that you pave to the nearest paved road if you have people coming in," said Julie Rynerson Rock, the San Bernardino County Director of Land Use Services, on Tuesday. "It's not just a matter of them getting in; it's also a matter of getting safety personnel in and out. Obviously if you have children there, it's a priority."

Construction of the house and visitor's center during the first week of February meant cast and crew had to brave wet and wintery conditions that underscored Rock's point, she said.

"The Extreme Makeover people had to do some rough grading and had to redirect people through another neighborhood just to get to the site," she said. "The road is virtually impassible without four-wheel drive [in bad weather]. It's virtually impassable."

Paving a mile of Buttemere Road to link it up with Phelan Road to the north would cost approximately $1 million, she said.

Naturally, the Almquists don't have that kind of money.

"If I had $600,000, I wouldn't have needed an Extreme Makeover," said Chemaine Almquist, referring to an estimate given to her by one of the builders who worked on the Extreme Makeover project. "In all honesty, after this show aired, we've had, I estimate, about 2 million hits on the Web site, but only about $25,000 in donations. It's hard times for people."

"We discussed this with the Extreme Makeover people the very first day," said Rock. "I know that a lot of the fundraisers, the [Building Industry of America] people were doing, were for that."

The biggest fundraiser of all -- a concert by Billy Ray Cyrus at Hesperia's Boulder Creek Ranch -- was cancelled when a fire broke out at the location.

The Almquists can still use the center for its other purposes, just not as an actual visitor's center.

"The project has been approved, but the paving is a condition of using that learning center," Rock said. "This is one of those 'no good deed goes unpunished' sort of things."

Almquist said the county has the power to waive the rule -- and ought to.

"Three fourths of the High Desert lives on dirt roads," she said. "It's not like you have to cross the Grand Canyon to get to me."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.