Cavers fighting to keep Nutty Putty open
December 2nd, 2009 @ 3:09pm
By Randall Jeppesen
UTAH COUNTY -- A growing number of cavers are trying to find ways to persuade officials to keep the Nutty Putty caves open.
Benjamin Allen has been in the Nutty Putty caves dozens of times and says he used to take therapy groups there to teach people how to overcome fears and gain confidence.
"I think it's done so much good for so many people, because as they go in there it's just like conquering a climbing wall or something. You feel confident. You've done something that you were afraid to do. Shutting the caves would be a great loss to all of us," Allen says.
He's proposing only the lower sections of the caves be sealed off, and he's even willing to pay to have it done himself.
"I would pay for it and take people in there, and we could close off the bottom section," Allen says. "The rest of the cave could still remain open.
Michael Douglas takes nature groups through Nutty Putty and says he's been in the caves at least 45 times in the past 10 years with kids as young as 5 years old.
"We're in mourning. We are very disappointed to see this shut down," Douglas says. "There are other caving opportunities in the area, but Nutty Putty is a very unique feature and we hope that if there is the opportunity to keep it open that somebody might hear us and might open that discussion as quickly as possible.
The email address firstname.lastname@example.org has been set up by a group hoping to keep the caves open, and they're directing their efforts toward the State Trust Lands Management which owns the property.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's office says his office is receiving phone calls from people upset by the caves' closure. However, he says the decision made by the groups overseeing the caves -- including the sheriff's office and the State Trust Lands -- will be enforced and the caves sealed off.
"We understand that people like to go there, and we don't take lightly a decision to shut off an attraction that has been popular to so many people," Cannon says. "But the determination was made that the risk was just too high to leave it open."
Cannon says during the process, agencies did discuss closing only the portion of the cave where John Jones died but decided there were many different sections of the cave that also were dangerous.
The idea was also brought up to close the cave for 10 or more years and then go in and recover the remains and open the rest of the cave back up. Cannon says that was decided against as well in part because the body is stuck in a steep area that is difficult to get to and the remains might fall deeper where they can never be recovered.