A Colorado firm has been awarded the contract to build a new visitors center in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, which has experienced a 1,000 percent increase in visitation sincethe 1960s.

Weeminuche Construction Authority of Towaoc, Colo., was given the contract for the first phase of construction, announced Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah. Garn helped secure $8.9 million for the project over the past two years in Congress.He said the first and largest phase will include construction of a 4,000 square-foot visitor station near the park entrance, which will replace a temporary trailer that had been serving visitors.

The construction company will also build a new water treatment/ generator building and will upgrade water and power systems. Work is expected to begin soon, continue through winter and be completed in mid-summer with minimum disruption to visitors.

A later phase is planned to include completion of a new entrance station, a telecommmunication system, a maintenance building, two campground comfort stations, an information kiosk, interpretive exhibits and one or more employee residences.