Navajo Nation Council supports fully reopening parks, recreation areas and lakes
President has 10 days to sign or veto measure
FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council has backed a bill to fully reopen parks and recreation areas managed by the tribe's parks and recreation department since the tribe's COVID-19 infection rates have slowed.
The council voted 23-0 in favor of the measure at a special session on June 3.
Despite the support, reopening the locations is not a done deal, a department official said.
"Navajo Parks and Recreation Department cannot unilaterally reopen tribal parks without approval from the Navajo Department of Health and the Office of the President and Vice President regardless of the council's action. If the president approves the legislation the tribal parks would reopen the next day," Department Manager Martin Begaye, said in a June 4 statement to The Daily Times.
Delegate Paul Begay, who sponsored the bill, spoke to the council about the financial hardship that vendors, businesses and employees have experienced since the sites closed last March due to the pandemic.
"Our thought, as council delegates, is, No. 1, to help our people. This is a prime example of a situation where we can help our people get out of the hole and get back on their feet," Begay said.
He added that public health agencies have stated that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low when people are outdoors.
"These visitors are distance apart," Begay said.
During the special session, the council amended the bill to include reopening the Navajo Nation Museum, Veterans Memorial Park and Navajo Nation Zoo, all in Window Rock, Arizona.
However, the zoo has been open to the public at 25% capacity since May, according to its Facebook page.
The bill also was amended by the Resources and Development Committee and the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee to reopen roads owned and maintained by the tribe, and to reopen all lakes under the tribe's Department of Fish and Wildlife when there is adequate staff and funding available.
Those amendments expanded the areas initially listed in the bill, which are Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Welcome Center, Little Colorado River Gorge, Four Corners Monument and Tseyi Diné Heritage Area.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has 10 calendar days after the bill is submitted to his office to sign or veto the measure.
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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