When will the slot canyons reopen?

Photo by Bob Hembree

PAGE – One thing noticeably missing from the City of Page is the stream of tour shuttles to the slot canyon tours. While most businesses in the Page are open, Navajo Nation is still exercising coronavirus precaution in the area.

Some believe the Nation’s COVID precaution has gone on long enough – perhaps too long. The City of Page had made efforts to work with the Navajo Nation, going back to when Levi Tappan was mayor.

The most recent letter was sent to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez by Mayor Bill Diak and City Manager Darren Coldwell:

Mr. President,

We are writing this letter to express our support for our Navajo neighbors that wish to be able to provide the much-needed tourist services of the local Slot Canyons. We have witnessed firsthand the terrible effects that COVID-19 has had on the Navajo people and we have supported your vigorous commitment to standards that were implemented to protect those most vulnerable. It is our hope that you will take into account the many advances that have been made to fight the pandemic, including guidelines implemented and suggested by the NDOH, CDC, and OSHA. We are aware of the continued de-escalation of the pandemic lock downs that you have begun to implement, and we are very supportive of those forward-thinking steps. By allowing business, food vendors, and casinos to open we are sure that you see the next step is to open the beautiful and wonderful park areas that your land so proudly holds.

We want to thank you in advance for taking the time to review our letter of support for our local businesses and hop you will consider giving them once again the opportunity to provide the greatly needed service that they provide the tourist and locals of Page.

Coldwell told the Chronicle, “We’ve made a huge commitment to create a positive, working relationship with Navajo Nation, so they’ll accept our calls, they’ll accept our letters, and realize that we do have a voice. We are hooked at the hip. We need to have a strong relationship with them. For Mayor Diak that has been really important to him to work with the Navajo Nation as well as the Hopi.”

As of May 21, the Nation was at “yellow status,” meaning most businesses can operate at 50% capacity. Casinos, marinas, and parks can open at 50% of occupancy, but only to Navajo Nation residents, citizens, and employees only, not visitors and tourists. Youth programs, gyms, recreation facilities, movie theaters must remain closed. Last week, Leilah Young of Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours told the Navajo Times, “I’m speaking out on behalf of our employees. I don’t know if the Nation is hearing our voices for the Western (Navajo). I don’t think they really understand how detrimental this is to our employees and their families.”

The business had around 120 employees before the pandemic hit.

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