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NUTTY PUTTY CAVE
POPULAR CAVE MAY CLOSE

Deseret News

Popular cave may close

Monday, June 20, 2005 11:05 p.m. MDT - By Jeremy Twitchell - Deseret Morning News

A mock rescue is conducted at the Nutty Putty Cave Monday. (Jon Jasper)
(Deseret Morning News graphic)
Cory Kowallis crawls through an area of the Nutty Putty Caves near "Scout Trap" Monday. (Jon Jasper)

ELBERTA — The Nutty Putty Cave, one of Utah's most popular subterranean destination spots, may be permanently sealed unless someone steps up to assume responsibility for safety and preservation at the site.
The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which owns the land on which the cave is found, decided in January that the cave could only remain open if an interested party leased the land.
The decision came after Utah County emergency-response teams pulled two people out of the cave within days of each other last fall. The spelunkers got stuck after entering the cave and needed to be rescued.
Brigham Young University, Utah Valley State College and the Boy Scouts of America initially expressed interest in assuming the lease, but none of the parties were able to arrange it before the June 1 deadline.
In a letter dated June 7, SITLA officials apprised all parties involved that without a lease in place, they had no choice but to seal the cave.
However, one group is still working in the eleventh hour, and a lease arrangement is still a good possibility.
"It looks pretty promising that a group will step up and prevent (closure)," said Gary Bagley, a realty specialist for SITLA.
Bagley declined to name the group that had expressed interest or how close a deal was to being made.
Under the proposed lease, the lessee would pay a nominal fee and be responsible for building a gate to control access to the cave and properly patrolling and maintaining it. The group that leases the land also would be required to carry an insurance policy of $1 million.
Jon Jasper, vice president of Timpanogos Grotto, a club dedicated to the exploration and preservation of Utah's caves, said he is sympathetic with SITLA's concern for the safety of cave explorers and agrees more supervision is needed on the site.
"Our hope is to get most everyone back in there, as long as they are properly equipped and trained," Jasper said.
Timpanogos Grotto installed a register and an electronic counter at the site in December 2003. According to data logged from the devices, Nutty Putty Cave receives an estimated 4,909 visits per year.
The cave's popularity and relative simplicity make it an ideal training ground for aspiring spelunkers to learn proper caving techniques, Jasper said.
"Nutty Putty happens to be a very nice cave for people to learn in," Jasper said. "And if they're prepared, it's not nearly as dangerous as it's made out to be."
Jasper added that if the caves are sealed, he fears uneducated cavers will spread to other caves and create the same problems.
And while no one involved in the process wants to see the cave closed, Bagley emphasized it is simply too dangerous to leave it open and unsupervised.
"One way or another, we're not going to allow the status quo to continue," he said.

E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com

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