Utah cavers angry over closure of Nutty Putty cave
December 3, 2009
UTAH COUNTY -- The process to permanently seal Nutty Putty cave has begun, and many people aren't happy with it.
That decision was made last week when John Jones died in the cave after getting stuck.
Jones was exploring the cave with a group of people when he became stuck in a narrow offshoot of what is known as the Birth Canal. Rescuers tried to get him out, but Jones died some 28 hours after he became stuck.
After his death, officials chose to leave Jones' body in place and permanently close Nutty Putty Cave to any other visitors.
Many Utah cavers thought officials would take into account all the petitions going around to save the cave. So when they heard cement and explosives were being used to seal the cave, they felt like they were losing something unique.
"I was a big fan of the cave; been in there many times," caver Trevor Bradford said.
There weren't any tears or sobs while Bradford and his friends looked at old photos of Nutty Putty cave adventures Thursday night, just anger -- anger that their favorite cave was being sealed.
"When I found out they were closing it without us being able to say anything, to have any word on it, I thought it was ridiculous," caver Kyle Parker said.
The friends have enjoyed Nutty Putty for years. Now, photos are all they have to remember the cave. The process of permanently closing it started Wednesday with explosives and dynamite -- exactly one week after John Jones got stuck in the cave and died there.
"I think it was kind of a rash decision for them to just close it all at once," Bradford said.
The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) which owns the land, said in a statement: "While SITLA recognizes that some in the caving community disagree with this decision, SITLA believes that the consensus decision of the various government entities with responsibility for land management, public safet, and search and rescue to close the cave was the correct one."
Still, many don't like the decision. The cavers KSL News spoke with said they understand the tragedy, but think the cave could have eventually been reopened.
"Just because of the tragedy, it doesn't mean you have to close it down," caver Daniel Kimball said.
"I think we should have a say," Parker said. "We understand the risks on what we're doing, and it's something we really loved to do."
That sealing process is expected to take until the end of the week to complete. A small, wooden box now covers the entrance to the cave.
Nutty Putty was closed before, but with a gate. Cavers still cut their way through to get in. We asked the cavers we talked to if they thought they could still get in, and they said they didn't think so this time. In fact, after the explosives, they wondered if Nutty Putty even exists anymore.