WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Thousands of school children that visit the Navajo Nation Zoo annually will finally have a much-smoother ride to the zoo thanks to a partnership between Apache County District II and the Navajo Nation Zoo to improve its road.
Visitation to the zoo is increasing each year and zoo officials have calculated more than 42,000 visitors annually. Visitations continue to increase and the zoo has been gaining more interest from national and international travelers. Of those numbers, 4,000 local Navajo school children visit annually.
The zoo was established in the 1970s to provide quality exhibition of local native plants and animals, and to foster an understanding of the local environment on the Navajo Nation. The zoo houses only injured and orphaned animals of local species and it offers free admission to all of its visitors.
Tom M. White Jr., Apache County District II Supervisor, explained he and his crew stepped in to offer their help mainly because of the high-volume of school children visiting the zoo, which is located within his county district on the Navajo Nation.
“We want to be sure that children on their school field trips arrive safely and have an awesome educational experience at the zoo,” said Supervisor White. “This type of project is a perfect fit [for us]. We recently celebrated a major milestone by upgrading 200 miles of unimproved dirt roads in the public works project.”
David Mikesic, a zoologist at the Navajo Nation Zoo, appreciates the county helping to improve their entry way.
“This project will provide visitors of the Navajo Nation Zoo, and especially large school buses, with a safe road to visit the zoo in Window Rock,” said Mikesic. “Many of our recent visitors have observed a difficult road to navigate when it rains or snows, and we’ve even had potential visitors turn around because of the awful road conditions.”
Mikesic explained the zoo has struggled for many years to maintain its road and parking lot. He said the Navajo Division of Transportation provided materials and labor nearly a decade ago, but the roads have since deteriorated from everyday use and from weather conditions.