Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

A better view.(Final)

Byline: Story by James Abarr * Photographs by Gary Abarr For the Journal

Project is under way to build new cultural and visitor center at Mesa Verde

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, Colo. -- After nine years of proposals and analysis, and a 150-page environmental impact assessment, a three-phase project to build an ambitious $50 million cultural and visitor center at this world-famous archaeological park is under way.

A 37-acre tract of land owned by the Mesa Verde Foundation, a partner in the project with the National Park Service, has been selected as the site of the new center. It will replace the current Far View Visitor Center, which was built in the late 1960s. Far View will be converted to an as yet undetermined use. One proposal envisions it becoming an archaeological museum.

As projected, the new cultural facility will rank among the most up-to-date of its kind in the Park Service system. It will be built against a backdrop of 8,400-foot-high Point Lookout, a sandstone-capped pinnacle just southeast of Mesa Verde's entrance station off U.S. 160, seven miles east of Cortez and 36 miles west of Durango.

Larry Wiese, Mesa Verde's superintendent, says the center will play a critical role in helping to educate and inform people, not only about the park, but also the surrounding Four Corners region.

"It's important to understand that Mesa Verde is only part of the story of the prehistoric people of this area, whose descendants still live here," he said. "I believe the new center will present a sense of wonder to future visitors. …

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