Third Fatal Fall from Cliffs in Ohio Park Land
As the Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigates the third fatal fall from a cliff in the Hocking Hills region since April, a park ranger outlined planned safety improvements.
The department intends to update the current signs that warn hikers not to go off the marked trails and onto dangerous cliffs, Ranger Paul R. Baker II told the Columbus Dispatch.
The changes will be made in as natural a way as possible to blend with the rugged beauty of Hocking Hills State Park, which attracts more than 1 million visitors annually, he said.
“We are trying to put in natural barriers, so we are not looking at fences and signs but trying to allow the natural beauty of the park to come out,” he said.
“The dangers are the cliffs themselves. People get too close, off trail, and then there’s accidents,” he said.
Baker said park rangers also have increased trail patrols and are issuing more citations to people who leave trails. He said rangers have issued 50 citations in the past three weeks and hundreds of warnings.
The current safety signs will be enhanced with new color schemes and other changes to make them stand out, said department spokeswoman Eileen Corson.
Department officials said the hiker who was killed on Monday (May 20) was John A. Schneider, 66, of Bay Village, near Cleveland.
He fell about 3:30 p.m. He was at the top of Cedar Falls on a cliff off the trail when he stepped too close to the edge, slipped and fell, striking the cliff face twice on the way down, Baker said.
The soaring sandstone cliffs that give the Hocking Hills State Park its majestic beauty also are mossy and slippery, contributing to the number of fatal falls there, officials have said.
Monday’s fatal fall came after the death of a Dayton-area rappeller, who fell on Saturday. Peter R. Livingston, 52, of Centerville, fell about 125 feet from a cliff in the rock-climbing and rappelling area of the Hocking State Forest while he was lowering a gear-filled backpack attached to a harness on his waist. He reached out at the cliff edge, perhaps because the backpack had snagged on something, lost his balance and fell, a Hocking County investigator said.
The Hocking State Forest is separate from but near the state park, both located about 50 miles southeast of Columbus.
On April 27, Josias Rodriguez, 19, of Columbus, died at Hocking Hills State Park. He had been hiking with friends when he left the marked trail to climb a rock face, then fell as he tried to climb down, an agency spokesman said.
Virtually all cliff falls in Ohio state parks have occurred after the hiker left the trail. A 20-year-old Muskingum College student was 100 feet off the trail when she fell to her death from a cliff near Hosak’s Cave in Salt Fork State Park in eastern Ohio in 2009, officials said.
Some hikers at Hocking Hills State Park were saddened by the recent deaths, but they said the rugged terrain must be respected.
Sarah and Adam Crotzer, of Mansfield, who were accompanied by their leashed cocker spaniel, Charlie, on a trail at Old Man’s Cave, said the park trails are safe and people should stay on them.
The advice from Mrs. Crotzer, 28, who grew up in McArthur in Vinton County and knows the Hocking Hills:
“Use the recommended trails and maps that they give you. People do what they’re not supposed to do, and that’s when the fatalities happen.”