Potential for rockslides, unstable cliff ledges affecting Utah outside security

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SALT LAKE CITY — The death of a hiker in Sevier County and a rockfall that halted traffic brought outdoor safety in Utah into focus in a matter of days.

Both herald the arrival of spring and that people should exercise caution when spending time outdoors in Utah.

“People have to be careful, especially now,” Sevier County Sheriff Nathan Curtis told KSL NewsRadio.

Richfield is in Sevier County, and not far from Richfield City, a woman fell to her death.

During a March 27 hike, Candice Thompson stepped onto the edge of a cliff known to locals as Bulls Head. She lost her footing when the rock broke loose and died after falling as much as 100 feet.

Sevier County officials surveyed the area after the fatal fall and later reported their findings. The degraded conditions of the rock combined with winter weather and moisture have been reported as contributing factors.

The Bulls Head area west of Richfield is composed of reddish sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone, according to the Utah Geological Survey. All three are sedimentary rocks, but while sandstone is less susceptible to weathering, siltstone and mudstone are considered very vulnerable.

How to ensure outdoor safety in Utah

Federal, state, and local officials oversee all outdoor recreation areas in Utah. But the sheer breadth of outdoor opportunities in the state means there can be periods when a particular area is unsafe.

“When hiking in the spring, people have to be careful above and below the hiking area,” Curtis said.

He also said hikers should avoid walking on or near cliff edges at all times.

Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation is one of the agencies charged with maintaining parks, trails, and open spaces. Liz Sollis, a community engagement officer at the agency, said they conduct regular maintenance and safety inspections.

And they’re making a concerted effort, she said, to monitor the county’s busiest areas. But it’s probably impossible for county officials to know every potential hazard or area that requires attention.

Whether it’s federal, state, or county outdoors, if anyone sees an issue that should be addressed, they are encouraged to reach out to officials who can address the issue.

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