Tuesday, August 26, 2014
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal officials have proposed a two-year ban on rope-swinging from iconic Utah arches and other high-flying activities at two popular landmarks that have led to deaths and injuries witnessed by visitors flocking to the sites for peaceful reflection.
The Bureau of Land Management says rope activities at Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges near Moab can disturb other people in easily accessible hiking areas that each receive 40,000 or more visitors a year.
People often shout or scream while they swing, and in one case, a group authorized to celebrate Passover under the Corona Arch was interrupted by rope swingers above, according to a BLM report released Monday.
Though the number of people who participate in the extreme activity is thought to be small, it's become a regular occurrence and can be dangerous. A West Jordan man, 22-year-old Kyle Lee Stocking, died at Corona Arch last year after leaving too much slack in his rope. A 25-year-old New Yorker was critically injured in May.
Those accidents happened in front of visitors, including children, the report says. Another rope swinger, 32-year-old Adam Jason Weber, was also killed last year swinging from Day Canyon, about 7 miles west of Moab.
The pendulum-style sport is relatively new, and started to take off at Corona after a high-adrenaline video was posted to YouTube titled "World's Largest Rope Swing" two years ago. That video has gotten more than 2 million views.
"We have seen the popularity of some roped activities skyrocket in recent years," said BLM Utah spokeswoman Megan Crandall.
Signs of wear are also starting to show, including bolts bored into the rock and rope scars at both Corona and Gemini Bridges, a set of two rock spans and the head of a side canyon.
The proposed ban would also affect other rope activities. That includes highlining, or balancing on taunt ropes between the two rims of the canyon, as well as ziplining and rappelling, all of which are popular at Gemini Bridges.
Attempts to contact people who rope-swing in the area weren't successful Tuesday, but Moab-based climbing guide Evan Howes said in June that the area has seen an "explosion" in extreme-sports adventurers, rendering it "Disneyland-esque."
"I don't envy the position the BLM is in," Howes said. "They're trying to preserve the experience for some people, and that means limiting it for others."
The BLM is accepting written and emailed comments from the public through Sept. 25. The agency hasn't set a deadline for a decision on the ban or when it might go into effect if it is approved.
If restrictions are put in place, they would affect some 32 acres around Corona Arch, including Bowtie Arch, and about 10 acres near Gemini Bridges.
Rope activities wouldn't be restricted elsewhere.
"That's one of the things that makes Moab so unique, it's a great place for kids, and for high-adrenaline, more extreme activities, there's a place to do that," Crandall said. The two-year period is designed to let the agency study the issue and make a decision on possible permanent restrictions.