National Park Service locations close services on Navajo Nation due to COVID-19
FARMINGTON — Three National Park Service locations on the Navajo Nation in Arizona have closed to visitors to help prevent the spread COVID-19.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado and Navajo National Monument near Kayenta have closed facilities and other amenities as of March 23 and until further notice, according to a press release.
The Southern Four Corners Group, which manages the locations under the National Park Service, modified operations in response to the public health emergency order issued by the Navajo Department of Health due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19.
The health department and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service has reported 71 positive tests for COVID-19 for the tribe as of March 26.
The following services and operations at the three locations were suspended to comply with the tribe's public health emergency order:
• The welcome center, park store and the White House Overlook and Trail are closed at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
• The visitor center and trading post at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site are closed.
• The visitor center, park store, campground and trails at Navajo National Monument are closed.
• Park personnel will not offer on-site public or educational activities, provide visitor information and services, operate or provide restrooms, or maintain trails and walkways.
"We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our websites and social media channels," the release states.
Lyn Carranza, superintendent for the Southern Four Corners Group, did not respond to an inquiry about roads remaining open for residents at Canyon de Chelly and at Navajo National Monument.
At Chaco Culture National Historic Park, the visitor center and museum are closed along with the Gallo Campground and the store operated by the Western National Parks Association.
The park's website states that Loop Road will remain open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the entrance gate to the road closing at 4:30 p.m.
"All visitors must vacate Loop Road by 5 p.m.," the website states.
Additional information on the website states that all trails are self-guided with park brochures and some information available outside the entrance to the visitor center.
It also states that all backcountry trails require a permit, which can be found at the entrance of each trailhead.
The Navajo Nation government has clamped down on tourists visiting parks, recreation sites and points of interest on the reservation since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported by state health departments in New Mexico and Arizona.
Under the tribe's public health emergency order, all non-essential businesses within the reservation are required to stop operations and visitors "are directed to return home immediately."
"The purpose of the closure is to allow the Navajo Nation as a whole to isolate and quarantine. Isolation and quarantine help protect our nation by preventing exposure to people who have or may have the contagious COVID-19 virus," the order states.
The action taken at the National Park Service locations follow the shuttering of parks and recreation sites operated by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department.
The department has been reminding the public on its Facebook page that the closure of popular sites such as the Four Corners Monument and Monument Valley Tribal Park remain in effect until further notice.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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