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BLM weighs rope ban at Corona Arch, Gemini Bridges

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, | Posted - Aug 31st, 2014 @ 8:47pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Escalating conflict among rope-sport enthusiasts and casual outdoor lovers is prompting federal land managers to weigh a two-year ban on roped activities at Corona Arch and Gemini Bridge.

The Grand County geologic landmarks draw thousands of visitors a year, but the Bureau of Land Management said the sightseeing experience is often compromised by groups of private individuals engaging in rope swinging or using zip lines.

Among the more dramatic examples of public problems was the March 2013 death of man killed while swinging at Corona Arch.

BLM officials said the death of Kyle Stocking, 22, was witnessed by more than 70 people, some of them children. The Grand County Sheriff's Office was also called to investigate the disruption of a Passover service because of roped activities.

BLM officials said they received relatively few reports of roped activities at Corona Arch until the 2012 posting of YouTube video titled "World's Largest Rope Swing."

Since then, the BLM has received frequent complaints from the public who find the solitude of photography, hiking or other sightseeing activities marred by the shouting and screaming that accompanies the extreme sport.

In an environmental analysis proposing the ban, the BLM reported an estimated 40,000 people visit Corona Arch and about 50,000 people visit Gemini Bridges on an annual basis.

Corona Arch, picked up by the federal agency in an exchange with the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration in May, is actually part of a rock bowl that also includes the Bowtie Arch.

The arches are accessible by foot in a 1.5 mile hike.

"As hikers round the last corner on the trail, Corona and Bowtie arches suddenly appear in a spectacular setting," the analysis said. "There is often an atmosphere of quiet reverence on the part of the visitors as they grasp the enormity of the view."

BLM officials said the continued presence of roped activities at the geologic features hampers that sense of reverence, and visitors have complained about the scars caused by the bolts and other hardware used for the activities.

Although commercial outfitters have been banned from rope activities at the Corona and Gemini Bridges, no such restrictions exist for private individuals.

Written comments will be accepted by letter or email through Sept. 25, with the subject line "Corona."

Comments should be as specific as possible and mailed to the Bureau of Land Management's Moab Field Office, Attention Katie Stevens, 82 E. Dogwood, Moab, UT, 84532, or emailed to .

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