Cavers Trying To Keep Nutty Putty Open
Thursday, 01 December 2005 - N.S. NOKKENTVED - Daily Herald
Local cavers are working on a plan to take the burden off state land managers and keep Nutty Putty Cave open.
Concerns over safety and the possibility that someone may be killed have led state officials to consider closing a popular cave in western Utah County.
And this summer, Provo City officials closed a cave in Y Mountain after four people drowned inside.
But closing caves to prevent deaths is not an acceptable solution, says Jon Jasper, of the Timpanogos Grotto, a local chapter of the National Speleological Society.
State officials have considered leasing the cave to an entity that would manage Nutty Putty Cave, but following the deaths this summer, interest in the lease idea caved in. But officials are open to other management ideas for Nutty Putty in western Utah County, Jasper said.
Grotto members are asking the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration to allow the spelunkers group to gate and regulate the entrance.
"We're willing to listen," said Gary Bagley, resource specialist with the Trust Lands Administration. "If it's something that makes sense."
But part of the issue is that Nutty Putty Cave is not on ordinary public land. It's on trust land, acquired by the state for its mineral resources. The state Trust Lands Administration is charged with managing such lands for the maximum gain -- not for recreation. The agency is obligated to find ways to reduce costs.
"We're not in the cave management business," Bagley said. "This thing is not making us a dime."
But if the grotto club is willing to take on the burden of managing the cave without costing the state a lot of money, Bagley's agency would be willing to consider letting them have at it.
"It would be nice to find a way to make it work and fit within our mandate," Bagley said.
The grotto would look for partners to help manage and keep the cave clean -- a group such as the Boy Scouts of America, which has a caving program that includes safety requirements and a method for handling the liability issues.
But even a carefully run cave may face some hurdles.
People seeking interesting adventures seem to be willing to sacrifice personal safety for a thrill. Most people who set out on these adventures assume they can survive if they get into trouble. Rather than take the time to be properly prepared, they assume that if they've got their cell phone, they can simply call for help, Jasper said.
Putting up a gate and regulating entrance to the cave risks a backlash from people unwilling to explore the cave safely. But sealing all caves to prevent unprepared people from dying is unfair to serious cavers, Jasper said.
N.S. Nokkentved can be reached at 344-2930 or at
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1.
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