Visitors to the Southwest know the Four Corners Monument as a bleak, dusty site that tourists flee once they’ve snapped a photo on the slab where four states come together. But that could all change with a proposed $4 million expansion project.
Four years ago, Congress authorized $2
million to build an interpretive center, permanent vendor booths
and flush toilets. That federal funding, though, is contingent on a
$500,000 matching contribution from each of the Four Corners
states. Arizona, Utah and New Mexico have already kicked in their
shares, but Colorado refuses to pony up.
which now sits on the Navajo Reservation, would also be expanded
onto the Ute Mountain Reservation, and be jointly operated by the
two tribes. Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, opposes the expansion
because of what he calls the “predatory” business
practices of the Utes, who operate a casino and several nearby
businesses. The tribe’s truck stop, for instance, offers free
meals to commercial drivers, a deal that Cortez eateries 12 miles
north cannot match, he says. He also objects to spending state
revenues on a tribal facility that, because of the
reservations’ sovereign-nation status, will not pay state
But Manuel Heart, a Ute Mountain tribal council
member, says the monument would benefit the entire area, and notes
that American Indians pay local taxes when they shop off the
reservation. He says the interpretive center would educate visitors
about Native American culture: “We have foreigners going to
the monument thinking there’s Indians living in
In the meantime, Colorado’s
severance-tax fund is frozen as the state battles a budget crisis.
If the state’s contribution is not received by Sept. 30,
Congress may drop its funding.