Navajo Nation to reopen parks, recreation areas for residents

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Barricades sit in the parking lot at the Veterans Memorial Park on March 29, 2020 in Window Rock, Arizona. A new public health emergency order would reopen the park to those who live on the Navajo Nation.

FARMINGTON — Tribal parks will reopen to Navajo Nation residents under a new public health emergency order, tribal President Jonathan Nez announced at a virtual town hall on April 21.

The new order will also see the tribe advance from orange status to yellow status under its reopening plan.

The order by the Navajo Department of Health was not released as of the afternoon on April 21, but Nez said it will go into effect on April 26.

Jill Jim, the tribe's health department director, said the order will have operational guidelines for the parks and recreation areas.

Last March, the tribe's Division of Natural Resources ordered the closure of parks, recreation sites and points of interest managed by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department because of the coronavirus.

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Nez acknowledged it will be a challenge to keep tourists and visitors away, but he called on residents to share information about the ongoing restriction.

Bowl Canyon and Camp Assayi near Crystal would open to those who live on the Navajo Nation under a new public health emergency order by the tribe's Department of Health.

"We're doing this because everyone around the country knows how hard Navajo was hit and if we have visitors listening in on this discussion, I just ask for your patience and your consideration," Nez said.

He explained at least 75% of those living on the Navajo Nation need to be vaccinated before the tribal land can reopen to tourists and visitors.

Health officials for the tribe have been reporting smaller numbers in new infections this month. However, there have been six confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants.

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Nez said three cases in the Shiprock Service Unit were identified having the variant first detected in California.

Brian Johnson, acting deputy director of the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, said the decrease in new infections is good news but easing restrictions remains a balancing act for leadership.

"It's a positive thing when we see the color code change from orange to yellow, meaning that we're able to reduce some of the restrictions," Johnson said.

The announcement came the same week a bill to reopen certain tribal parks under current business and public health guidelines was introduced.

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

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