The Four Corners School of Outdoor Education in Monticello has created lifelong learning experiences about the Colorado Plateau for students of all ages and backgrounds since 1984.
The school has accomplished this through a mix of education, service, adventure and conservation services.
Now, with help from a number of private donors and a $1.59 million grant from the Economic Development Administration, the venerable school will soon begin work on a new campus called the Canyon Country Discovery Center that will be located north of Monticello.
"I feel that this project has the potential to have a huge positive impact on the local economy," said Tim Young, Monticello’s new mayor. "I am excited to have such a unique facility in Monticello. I believe it will help draw people from all over the world to Monticello, and enrich the lives of future generations of Monticello residents for years to come.
The Four Corners School has been on a mission the past few years to raise money to build the new Discovery Center, where programs such as the Canyon Country Youth Corps, the Discovery Institute for Conservation Education, the Bioregional Outdoor Education Project and Southwest Ed-Ventures occur.
The school plans to hire six new staff members in 2014 and eight more in 2014.
The Discovery Center will feature a 22,000-square-foot facility located on 48 acres. It will include an exhibit hall with hands-on interactive learning stations, a night sky observatory, a theater, administrative offices, five miles of walking and cross country ski trails, playgrounds and picnic area.
It also will serve as a community resource with a library and field laboratory, classrooms and meeting spaces large enough to accommodate community meetings and conferences of up to 150 people.
Areas of emphasis will include natural history, human history, land use and energy, water resources, astronomy and weather. Learning stations will provide insight into the Colorado Plateau.
"The $8.2 million raised thus far represents a significant investment in the future of Monticello and the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau," said Steve Munsell, Four Corners School Board Chair. "We are in awe of the generosity of the private donors and support of government entities."
Major private donors include Jennifer Speers Hansjoerg Wyss, the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, David Bonderman, the Janet Quinney Lawsom Foundation, Utah Cares Foundation, Val A. Browning Foundation and Four Corners School boardmembers.
The school has worked for many years to secure the funds for the Discovery Center and is still working to find enough funds to finish the project. Leaders said the investment from the Economic Development Administration was a big piece in reaching the goal.
"This investment is an example of our commitment to creating jobs and promoting our nation’s competitiveness," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. "This grant will support the growth of the tourism cluster in the region, and create or save approximately 33 jobs, in addition to leveraging millions of dollars in private investment."
Brad Petersen, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, praised the project for expanding recreational infrastructure in order to grow tourism and the recreation economies in rural Utah.
Construction on the LEED certified building is scheduled to begin in June, with the Discovery Center scheduled to open in the summer of 2015.
Utility piping and wiring, highway turn lanes, an observatory, yurt, walking trails and five picnic pavilions were completed in 2013.
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