A new science discovery center will open this weekend just outside of the southeastern Utah city of Monticello. Founders hope the $8 million center will bring tourists to Monticello without causing overcrowding.
Many tourists drive past Monticello on their way to Moab, but Chris Giangreco, the development director of the Canyon County Discovery Center, hopes that will soon change.
“We really want people to step outside the crowded traffic that is Moab, drive 45 minutes south, spend the night here in Monticello where it’s a heck of a lot cheaper and 20 degrees cooler,” Giangreco said. “And our skies are much more beautiful because they’re clearer and we’re 3000 feet higher than Moab.”
Giangreco said the center aims to teach visitors about the natural red rock formations of the Colorado Plateau region. But while Giangreco hopes tourists stop in Monticello, he hopes the small town doesn’t experience overcrowding like Moab.
“Just up the road from us, you know, 55 miles, is Moab,” Giangreco said. “And in many ways we see Moab as the thing that we do not want to become.”
Moab has well over one million visitors every year. Giangreco says Monticello’s science center expects about 35,000 visitors per year.
“We’re a long way from having those problems, but I think that for us, it’s important for us to think about those now so we don’t accidentally back into a situation where we have become overrun,” he said.
Giangreco said the center intends to communicate with residents and city officials to make sure overcrowding doesn’t become a problem.
“It might sound silly because it might sound like a good problem to have, but it’s important for us to keep the way of life that we have here, that the residents of San Juan County have here,” he said.
In the meantime, Giangreco believes the center will improve Monticello’s economy and give tourists a reason to visit one of the lesser-known areas of Utah.