Project aims to maximize town's tourism potential

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FARMINGTON — A project designed to help bring a hotel and restaurant to Shiprock received a boost last week when $2.8 million was authorized for infrastructure costs for the development.

The expenditure was authorized through a memorandum of agreement signed July 31 by Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, according to a press release from his office.

The amount is part of an $8.3 million allocation for the project from the income for the Permanent Trust Fund under a five-year expenditure plan the Navajo Nation Council and Begaye approved in 2016. Begaye's office did not respond to a query from The Daily Times about whether the balance of that $8.3 million already had been allocated.

The release states the agreement also establishes a partnership between the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise and the tribe's Division of Economic Development for the project's design and construction.

It also directs the gaming enterprise to provide project oversight, complete marketing and traffic impact studies, calculate utility loads for the structure, and operate and manage the facility after completion, the release states.

"This project will help revitalize the economy in one of the largest chapters on the Navajo Nation. Shiprock is an important community in the Four Corners area, with traffic coming through from all directions. A hotel is long overdue," Begaye said in the release.

A market study completed several years ago was included as supporting documentation when the tribal council considered the legislation for the five-year expenditure plan.

The study states a hotel would increase the community's ability to cater to tourists.

"Shiprock is a key road junction for truck traffic and tourists visiting the Four Corners, Mesa Verde National Park and Grand Canyon National Park," the study stated.

Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said today the chapter has always recognized its greatest economic potential lies in tourism and agriculture.

He said chapter officials, the gaming enterprise, the tribe's economic development division and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been collaborating on the project since 2016.

"We've been working very well together all along," he said.

The proposed location for the structure is on seven acres north of the Wells Fargo Bank, Yazzie said. The site is north of U.S. Highway 64 and west of U.S. Highway 491.

A portion of the land is known as the Shiprock Administrative Reserve Area, and it is held by the BIA, which is working to transfer it to the tribe. Chapter officials have been working with the agency to assess the area and conduct any remedial actions, he said.

As for the agreement, Yazzie said it was necessary to clarify the involvement of the gaming enterprise and the economic development division.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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