With a brief ceremony, the turning of a few shovels of dirt, and a celebration, site work began on the project, which will result in a significant new addition to Monticello.
The educational facility is designed to serve as a destination point for the two million visitors who travel each year through the heart of the Colorado Plateau.
The Canyon Country Discovery Center will include a 19,000 square-foot LEEDS-certified facility that will include a hands-on educational discovery center, night sky observatory, outdoor and indoor classrooms, lab, conference room and public meeting space, and support structures. The campus covers 48 acres of ground immediately north of Monticello on Highway 191.
The Discovery Center will offer programs to residents and visitors alike, both at the facility and through out-reach efforts.
The project is a public-private partnership that began in the Monticello Economic Development Committee. The Monticello-based Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, which has offered programs for the past 27 years, is the private partner in the venture.
While significant work on the ground began this month, nearly ten years of planning has gone into the project.
Fund-raisers are nearing the half-way point for the $6 million construction phase. Phase One will be completed this summer, with site utilities, turn lanes, entry road, and entry sign.
Completion of the Discovery Center is scheduled for late 2014. More than 75 people attended the event.
Remarks were made by Monticello Mayor Doug Allen, San Juan County Commission Chairman Bruce Adams, San Juan School Board member Bill Boyle, and Utah State Senator David Hinkins.
Allen discussed the economic impact of the center, Adams recalled his career as a science educator, Boyle discussed the evolution of the center from an idea to reality, and Hinkins discussed rural economic development.
Stephen Trimble, author of Telluride to Tuba City: Making a Home on the Colorado Plateau, was the featured guest speaker.
Trimble said, “The Colorado Plateau, the Desert West, is a shapeshifter, as Native storytellers understand. Living in a landscape where the bones show, where the Earth itself reminds us daily of its history, we must look to each other for guidance, for a clear path into the future, trading stories, trading knowledge.
“…We have the chance to move beyond the paralysis of old antagonists. Doug Allen is right: We all love this land. Newcomers value the same open space honored by generations of families tied to the land. If we all can keep talking, if we can cooperate, New Westerners can absorb the best of the Old. The Old can evolve with the New.
“Our edges are rounder, our destination closer. Gravity and time turn out to be equally unavoidable. This arc through time deepens our relationships with the places we love. The Canyon Country Discovery Center—first dreamed up by Bill Boyle and Bruce Adams and brought to brick-and-mortar reality here on this lovely site by Four Corners School Director Janet Ross, with a lot of help from a lot of people—will continue to grow those relationships for many generations to come.
“Along the way, the Four Corners School will accomplish its mission. The people who will make their lifelong homes here and the visitors who are newly discovering the canyon country both will learn from this center’s educators the value of service, the joy of adventure, the sweet sense of refuge that comes with belonging to a community, and the gratifying responsibility to conserve the natural and cultural heritage of the Colorado Plateau.”
[See Trimble's full remarks here.]
Four Corners School of Outdoor Education is a non-profit organization founded in 1984. Based in Monticello, Utah, Four Corners School provides place-based outdoor education on and about the Colorado Plateau.
For more information about Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, visit www.FourCornersSchool.org or call 1-800-525-4456.