A group of volunteers is crafting a plan for a tourism center on the western side of the Navajo Nation.

A 12-member group, made of tribal and non-profit members, and a university professor. are part of the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department’s Joint Stewardship Plan for Navajo Nation Western Parks. The nearly 8-year-old plan is at a phase that allows the group to crisscross western Navajo Nation asking local tribal members about the future of two large tribal parks.

The group scheduled a meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 5, 2024, at Cameron Chapter House. Bodaway/Gap and Cameron chapter community members are invited to share their ideas for building a Western Navajo Park, according to the agenda.

They want people to identify areas that should be banned from development and identify where best to locate a tourism center that ideally could be outfitted with infrastructure, trails, a restaurant, RV parking, a hotel, and a flea market where locals sell food and their arts and crafts.

Cameron residents, for example, will propose a culture/visitor center be located in Cameron.

The parks include the Little Colorado River Tribal Park and Marble Canyon Tribal Park. The parks stretch over a swath of land east of the Colorado River in two chapters, according to a map given to a map shared with Save the Confluence website.

Map depicting two tribal parks stretching from Cameron, Arizona, north to Marble Canyon.

Two proposed Navajo Nation tribal parks would engulf much of the western portion of the reservation, and include the Little Colorado River, while bordering the Colorado River near Grand Canyon National Park.

“It (tourism) could benefit the community with jobs and facilities out there plus tourists,” said Larry Foster, an advisor and volunteer member of NPRD Joint Stewardship Plan for Navajo Western Parks.” (If) ‘some communities don’t want tourism, then we look at other options.”’

The group, for the most part, has already identified sacred sites in the area.

For now, advisors want to hear from people, who are stakeholders in the following areas: Marble Canyon, Little Colorado Gorge and west of Highway 64 from Cameron, the Grand Canyon Park boundary, and all areas west of Highway 89 (from Cameron to Marble canyon), according to documents obtained by Save the Confluence.

It is unknown how much the planned tourism hub would cost and how such a project could be financed. For now, the final rendering and location of a tourist center are also unknown because planners have not fully heard from the public.

Once the public comment phase ends, the results will be compiled, and a tourist location may be identified. The information then will be turned over to Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department for review.

The Navajo Nation Council will vote to reject or approve the plan.

Martin Begaye, Navajo Parks and Recreation Department director, was unavailable for a comment. About 600,000 tourists visit the Nation’s parks annually, according to Begaye’s social media page.

Sources said a discussion and vote from the chapter houses are not needed in this situation because alleged heated argument and personal attacks at chapter houses can derail such projects. This was one reason a group of Cameron Community vendors reached off- the- reservation for an unbiased help to plan a tourism center.

The Nation tapped Benjamin Broom, Arizona State University Hugh Downs School of Human Communication professor. Broom’s role is to serve as moderator and facilitator for meetings of the NPRD Joint Stewardship Plan for Navajo Western Parks.

Broome, in an e-mail in 2023, described his role as helping “the group (advisory team) move through its agenda efficiently and engage in respectful dialogue when it holds meetings.”

He added the team started meetings in 2020 via Zoom and met in-person last year.

“Credit goes to Mr. Begaye and his colleagues for engaging in a planning process that seeks input from multiple stakeholders and that is guided by a vision for the parks that emphasize Diné culture, history, and tradition,” Broom said.