Timpanogos Cave looks to improve its safety

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Timpanogos Cave National Monument has completed several maintenance and construction projects inside the caves and along the cave trail.

Every year, the Timpanogos Cave has 70,000 visitors motivated to hike the 1 ½ miles trail to the caves, located almost 1,100 feet in elevation. The trail provides spectular views of the geology of American Fork Canyon and the expanding cities of the Utah Valley.

[media-credit name=”Photo Courtesy of Timpanogos Cave National Monument ” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
New improvements were made on the rails to the Timpanogos Cave for added safety precautions.
The maintenance and construction in the Timpanogos Cave National Monument is part of a project planned to provide better experience safety and an improved experience to visitors.

“These projects are important to enhance the safety of visitors, school groups, employees and volunteers who hike the Timpanogos Cave Trail and tour the Timpanogos Cave System,” said Mike Goose, chief ranger of the national monument.

In the last 10 years, the park has had four visitors and one employee fall from the cave trail. Two of these falls were fatal for the individuals. As a consequence of the fatal accidents, Timpanogos Cave management brought in a couple serious accident investigation teams to analyze the data about each fall and determine any root causes.

“The recommendations made by the investigators are now being implemented with the construction project,” Goose said.

Last week, Timpanogos Cave National Monument started working on extending the cave exit shelter, as a result of the recommendations and to improve visitor safety.

“The cave exit construction project will be a great enhancement to visitor’s safety from falling rock hazards,” said Denis Davis, Timpanogos Cave National Monument superintendent. “Planned trail maintenance and construction this season are a minor inconvenience that will ensure the safety and comfort of visitors in the future.”

As part of the construction project, new electrical grounding connections and junction boxes have been installed in the cave to replace older systems that have corroded in the caves, where humidity reaches 98 percent.

The park placed about 250 yards of temporary barriers along the cave trail where steep cliffs created a high falling hazard risk. Permanent rock walls or hand rails will be installed on the cave trail in the future.

“It’s great to hear that they are making changes and improving the park,” said Joshua Bennett, a BYU student from Tennessee majoring in finance. “I go there every summer, and maintenance and renovations will make me feel safe next time I’ll go there.”

In addition to these construction projects, a new operational change was implemented in 2011.

“All visitors are now stopped and given a safety message at the bottom of the cave trail before they hike up to the caves,” Goose said. “This safety message reminds people to bring water and food for their hike, as well as warns them of the potential for rockfall along the trail and being alert for the steep cliff edges.”

The cave exit shelter construction project is expected to be completed by November.

The caves and cave trail will be open to the public Friday through Sunday until Oct. 16. Construction work on the cave exit shelter will require the cave trail to be closed Monday through Thursday. The Timpanogos Cave Visitor Center and Concessions will remain open daily.

Visitors are encouraged to check the park website at nps.gov/tica or call the visitor center at 801-756-5238 and purchase advance tickets before their planned arrival.

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