Construction will begin soon on the first permanent visitors center in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, announced Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.

Garn, who fought to win congressional approval of about $9 million for improvements to Canyonlands, said the Weeminuche Construction Authority, a Colorado firm, will build the first phase of the 4,000-square-foot visitors center.The park currently uses a small trailer house as a visitors center. "This new center, which will be located in San Juan County, will be a welcome site for the thousands of people who visit the park each year," Garn said.

In addition to the visitors center, a new water treatment and generator facility will be built to upgrade inadequate water and power systems. Construction will continue throughout the winter months with a mid-summer completion date targeted.

A second phase of construction will likely include the completion of a new entrance station, telecommunication system, maintenance building, two campground comfort stations, an information kiosk, interpretive exhibits and one or more employee residences.

All improvements are within the Canyonlands General Management Plan approved in 1978. The park was established in 1964.