WINDOW ROCK – For years, the Four Corners Monument Business Alliance has been one of the few vocal advocates seeking to improve derelict and decrepit conditions at the monument but one of many with complaints.
The most difficult part of its struggle has been to find an ear that would listen.
That happened Monday when its board members met with Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren at his office.
“In all of the country, there are only one Four Corners, and the tourists leave traumatized,” the President said.
Having grown up in Red Mesa, he said he is aware that tourists complain to the vendors about smelly bathrooms, bad parking, and poor upkeep of the facilities even though the Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation Office collects $8 from every person.
The alliance members, President Bertha Benally, Vice President Paul Lansing, Secretary Yolanda Lymone, and their advisor, Larry Johnson, told President Nygren that it’s gotten to the point that duct tape is needed to cover waterless bathroom door latches so tourists don’t continue to get locked inside.
Tourists complain about the odor emanating from the bathrooms, the bathrooms are not ADA compliant for the elderly, vendors continually need to shovel mud out of them when it rains, and that the parking lots turn to mud bogs after storms, they said.
“It’s not just the bathrooms that are not handicap accessible,” said Ms. Benally, “it’s the whole place.”
She said the handicapped parking area floods and forms potholes whenever it rains.
The alliance members told the President that some of the money collected from each person entering the monument by Parks & Rec should go back into the maintenance and upkeep of the facilities.
Among those who agreed was Division of Natural Resources Director Michael Halona. He said the Parks & Recreation Office has collected $10 million that has not been used.
“It’s not lack of money to get things done,” he said, “it’s lack of initiative to get moving.”
He said he requested a master improvement plan when he became division director in January.
“Yes, we need better facilities to improve visitors’ experience and put a mini-museum in for them to learn something about Navajo,” he said. “That’s what I told Parks & Rec when I came in. Tourism is a priority for the President and it’s my priority, too.”
Ms. Benally said that for the past several years vendors have maintained the Four Corners site. They paid for gravel for the parking area, cleaned up trash, and requested assistance as the monument has degraded into disrepair, she said.
Permanent bench seating in the plaza area has been broken for at least the last five-to-six years. Bathrooms that were built in 2012 but were never used are now condemned because of the shifting ground beneath them.
Right now, she said, only the Parks & Rec office at the monument has electricity and running water. The Four Corners Monument Business Alliance wants to see utilities connected to working bathrooms.
The alliance members say porta-potties and tankless bathrooms are completely inadequate for the estimated 250,000 American and international visitors who come to the only location in the country where four states touch.
President Nygren said he would like to meet with county representatives from the four states to turn the monument into a destination Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah can be proud of.
“We can leverage tourism to build a visitor center, restaurants, and place advertisements to attract more tourists with available hotels nearby,” he said.
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