Nutty Putty rescues may prompt cave closure

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    By Michelle Witte

    The recent rescues in the Nutty Putty caves have raised the concern whether the caves should be closed to the public.

    BYU student David Crowther from Harper”s Ferry, W.Va., was trapped inside the cave for over eight hours as rescuers tried to remove him without injury.

    Last month, a 16-year-old boy from Orem was also rescued after being stuck for 11 hours.

    But spelunkers are not pleased that one of their favorite haunts could be closed. Ramon Zabriskie, professor of recreation management at BYU, often takes students on tours of the caves as part of the curriculum.

    Zabriskie said the debate would not deter him from taking his students there as part of classes this semester.

    “I”ve been using that cave for 15 years or more,” Zabriskie said. “It won”t slow us down at all. We”ll be fine.”

    One of Zabriskie”s students — Mica Hale, a therapeutic recreation major from Spanish Fork — has visited the Nutty Putty caves on three separate occasions and said they should be closed.

    “Lots of people like to go caving, and I don”t think that they should shut it down because someone got in a bad situation,” Hale said. “Maybe they could have professional guides.”

    Other students agree that there are other possible solutions to the problem. Dave Pepper, an English major from Sandy, said increased safety measures in the caves will prevent most incidents and avoid the necessity of closing the caves.

    “As long as you”re smart and don”t push it, you”re fine,” Pepper said. “I”ve been there a couple times and never had problems getting stuck.”

    Alternative solutions are currently being considered by the Utah State Trust Lands, which handles administration of the cave, but closing the Nutty Putty cave is a last resort.

    Officials are debating turning the management of the caves over to another group that could better handle the increased popularity.

    “They”re talking about turning it over to someone that could police it, because we don”t have the policing abilities,” said NormaLee McMichael, public relations specialist for the Trust. “The last thing we want is someone to get killed in there or seriously injured. So far they”ve been lucky, but that would be a big liability on the part of the trust lands.”

    Other government agencies are also skeptical if closure is necessary. Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff”s office is doubtful that closure of the caves is a serious consideration.

    “There”s been some passing discussion,” Cannon said. “In the past every time we go there it comes up, but we never have yet, at least to this point, given it any serious consideration or discussion.”

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