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State Trying to Decide if it Should Seal Popular Cave



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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Warning signs have been posted outside a popular western Utah County cave, where spelunkers get stuck on average about twice year. But the state is considering controlling access to the cave or even sealing it because of the potential danger.

Last year, a BYU student spent more than seven hours stuck in a narrow passage in Nutty Putty Cave. Rescuers chipped away rock to free him. He was not seriously hurt.

A week earlier, an Orem teenager spent the night stuck upside-down in the cave before he could be rescued.

No one has died in Nutty Putty Cave, but the state worries that someone could be seriously injured or killed there and officials are trying to decide what to do about it.

"We are still weighing our options," said Gary Bagley, resource specialist with the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. The options include sealing the cave, controlling access with a gate or signing a lease with a group or organization that would manage it.

Few of the people who visit the cave are properly equipped, dressed or experienced, said Jon Jasper of the Timpanogos Grotto Club.

Nutty Putty Cave gets about twice as many visitors as any other Utah cave, Jasper said. He estimates about 4,000 visitors a year, but only about 1 percent are properly equipped.

After the two rescues last year, the Utah County sheriff's office brought its concerns to the state agency, Bagley said. His agency would like to keep the cave open and still avoid problems.

Cave deaths are rare in Utah, but last summer four people drowned in an underwater passageway in a cave on Y Mountain, east of Provo.

The deaths may have raised issues about liability and made outdoor recreation groups reluctant to assume responsibility for managing the cave, Jasper said.

Two groups had talked with state officials about a lease agreement, the agency has no valid applications, Bagley said.

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Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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