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BLM makes changes to increase safety after deaths at ‘The Wave’

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SOUTHERN UTAH – The Bureau of Land Management is making changes toward increasing safety at “The Wave,” a popular rock formation along the Utah/Arizona border.

In July, three people died after getting lost during the hike from “The Wave.” That prompted BLM officials to take a closer look at procedures and current emphasis on hiker safety.

“Any time there’s a fatality on public land, it is call for concern,” said BLM Arizona strip public affairs officer Rachel Tueller. “BLM is first and foremost concerned with visitor safety.”

The following are areas the BLM has indicated would be changed immediately:

  • Translate informational/safety brochures and video into the major languages of foreign visitors (already in progress).
  • Revise the BLM Arizona and Utah webpages to put greater emphasis on safety (such as emphasizing the difficulty of the hike to The Wave).
  • Develop a new safety interpretive sign at the Wire Pass trail head.
  • Produce a condensed version of the current safety video to be shown at the Kanab Visitor Center (before or after the walk-in lottery) and featured more prominently on the BLM websites.

“The Wave” attracts people from all over the world to hike. The current permit process only allows 20 people per day to venture out into the wilderness. It’s partly done to preserve the land, but it’s also another safety measure.

The Geale family came from the UK to hike “The Wave.” Nicola Geale said she was anxious at first after hearing about recent deaths in the area, but she decided with proper preparation it was something they could handle.

“We’ve had about a thousand debates, should we do it. Shouldn’t we do it,” Geale said. “We have the GPS, we had all the pictures. We put markers down as we went.”

“I didn’t think it was particularly strenuous,” said Nicola’s son, Henry. “It’s just hot, and you can get lost quite easily. But if you have a GPS and you prepare, obviously we did.”

Nicola’s husband, Matthew, said it’s a hike they’ve wanted to do for some time, and despite the danger, it was worth the extra precaution.

“You walk out there and it’s just desert,” Matthew Geale said.  “You just see the rocks out there, It’s only when you walk into it, you realize how cool it is.”

Tueller said safety at “The Wave” is an ongoing discussion, and there are other, long-term safety measures being considered for the future.

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