Visitors to the Four Corners Monument browse Navajo vendor booths on Tuesday.
Visitors to the Four Corners Monument browse Navajo vendor booths on Tuesday. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

FOUR CORNERS MONUMENT — While national parks and monuments are closed because of the federal government shutdown, it is business as usual at the Four Corners Monument.

The monument remains open because it is solely operated by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department, which manages six other parks on tribal land.

"The tourists really appreciate this park being opened," said a park employee, who declined to give her name.

One of those visitors on Tuesday was Dan Lazorcak, who traveled with his family from Phoenix, Ariz., to visit Canyon De Chelly National Monument near Chinle, Ariz., only to find it closed.

Since the family was driving to Durango, Colo., they decided to stop at the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and the Four Corners Monument.

"We're still having a good time," Lazorcak said.

He was not alone in making the best out of the closure situation.

Mija Steudler traveled from Zurich, Switzerland, to see America's national parks, only to be greeted by closure signs.

"We came all this way to see all these parks, and they are closed," Steudler said.

She said she and her husband plan to cut their trip short by driving to Denver, Colo., and then flying to Canada "because nothing is open here."

After purchasing a T-shirt, Joe Leisten explained that his family was working around the closure by visiting state-operated attractions like Slide Rock State Park near Sedona, Ariz.

Leisten drove from Des Plaines, Ill., and said that he has seen a fair share of closure signs, including at Arizona's Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest national parks.

"I got pictures in front of the sign saying, 'Closure due to budget cuts,'" he said.

He was not surprised that the Four Corners Monument was open because he knew it is operated by the Navajo Nation. But his relative, Jeanne Leisten, has been "very disappointed" by the closures because it is her first trip to the Southwest.

Dan Lazorcak, of Phoenix, Ariz., does a backbend as his daughter Kali Lazorcak, 11, takes a photograph on Tuesday at the Four Corners Monument.
Dan Lazorcak, of Phoenix, Ariz., does a backbend as his daughter Kali Lazorcak, 11, takes a photograph on Tuesday at the Four Corners Monument. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

As vehicles entered the Four Corners Monument, staff handed drivers a brochure with information and directions to the other tribal parks in area, which are Antelope Canyon, Bowl Canyon Recreation Area, the Little Colorado River Gorge, Monument Valley, the Navajo Nation Zoo and Botanical Park, and the Window Rock Monument and Veterans Memorial Park.

As more and more visitors paused to take photographs and pose at the point where four states meet, vendor Wayne Tom watched from his booth.

Tom travels from Sheep Springs to sell jewelry and Navajo sandpaintings, and since the shutdown went into effect, he has noticed a 20 percent increase in visitors.

Although he has heard complaints from tourists about the closure of national parks, the shutdown has been good business for him.

So far, Tom has seen his daily sales range from $300 to $500, compared to the usual profit of $150 for this time of the year.

"It's good for me, so I'm taking advantage of it," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.