Locals celebrate paving of Béésh Haagééd góó 'atiin

By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau

BODAWAY-GAP, Ariz., June 13, 2013

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Fifteen dignitaries including President Ben Shelly, Coconino County District 5 Supervisor Lena Fowler, Councilman Duane Tsinigine, Bodaway-Gap Chapter president Perry Slim, Coppermine Chapter president Floyd Stevens, and LeChee Chapter president Irene Nez-Whitekiller participated in the Navajo Route 20 (U.S. Highway 89T) groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday at Tsinaaba?a?s Ha'bitiin Elementary School.

A Navajo Route 20 groundbreaking ceremony, held by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Navajo Division of Transportation, took place on Sunday at Tsinaabaas Ha'bitiin Elementary School.

Although the construction of N-20 (U.S. Highway 89T) began late last month, dignitaries and locals gathered to celebrate a momentous event that many of the residents living along N-20 have been waiting for, for more than 40 years.

"It's euphoric!" said, in Navajo, division director Paulson Chaco of the Navajo DOT, during his overview speech. "The road will be constructed, and it took tremendous effort."

Chaco thanked the Bodaway-Gap, Coppermine, and LeChee chapter officials for their resolutions.

"This is a special and historic occasion for … all the surrounding chapters," said Coppermine Chapter president Floyd Stevens as he welcomed the multitude of people seated in the gymnasium. "We're embarking on a (landmark), a partnership and cooperation in building this road."

President Ben Shelly spoke of ants in his address.

Shelly said vital lessons could be learned from small insects like ants because they always find a way to reach their goals, no matter how much they are distracted, how long it takes, or the obstacles they encounter.

"This is the way it's been done for centuries, and we should continue doing that - working together, all of us, to make this thing easier," said Shelly of the efforts that took months of negotiation and planning. "It has been long talked about, even when I was a councilman."

"Now you'll have N-20, it's going to be paved," added Shelly. "Our prayers have been heard, it's happening!"

Regional director Sharon Pinto of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region congratulated the tri-communities for accomplishing the paving of the 28-mile portion of dirt road, which travels from Bodaway-Gap north through Coppermine and ending in LeChee.

"It's a huge impact," said Pinto. "There's a huge difference that will be made into the lives of this community and it's a lot of decision making that the community had engage in."

According to the Arizona DOT, construction is expected for completion in mid-August.

But road construction projects typically do not materialize in a three-month period said ADOT state engineer Jennifer Toth.

"But this project became a reality, much more quickly," said Toth. "Really, it boils down to the partnerships that were established – with the different agencies working together."

In fact, the ADOT and the Navajo Nation have maintained a formal partnership.

"We would not be here today celebrating the construction of N-20 without the cooperation and partnership of the Navajo Nation, the Navajo DOT, BIA, ADOT, and you, the communities," said division administrator Karla Petty of the Federal Highway Administration. "FHA's thankful for the (joint action) and support of the local Navajo chapters and associations. The spirit of teamwork is evident."

And now that the road will be paved, Council delegate Duane Tsinigine (Bodaway-Gap/Coppermine/Kaibeto/LeChee/Tonalea-Redlake) says it won't be as bumpy, "so those with wigs on, you don't have to tighten it anymore."

Floyd Stevens said the new road will provide the tri-communities a safe and efficient travel.

"And that's how we embark on this project, to make it a reality," said Stevens of U.S. Highway 89T, the route of many nicknames including, "Coppermine Road," "The detour-detour," and Béésh Haagééd góó 'atiin (The road to Coppermine).

Contact: Krista Allen, editor@navajotimes.com.