You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Patrols stepped up at state parks following deaths

With summer beginning and six accidental deaths already recorded in parks this year, Ohio state park officials are redoubling security and safety efforts.

Drownings are the number one cause of fatals at Ohio parks, but cliff-related deaths remain a concern for state officials.

Three people fell to their deaths in April and May at Hocking Hills alone. Two of the fatal falls occurred when hikers left the trails to use the cliffs and the third occurred when a Boy Scout troop leader fell in a rappelling accident.

ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce said new signs placed at Hocking Hills “encourage visitors to be mindful of their safety and surroundings,” and park rangers have stepped up their patrols and enforcement efforts to make sure people are aware of the “dangers that might exist off-trail.”

A Dayton Daily News examination found since 2008, 110 people have died in Ohio’s 83 state parks. Of the deaths, 79 were ruled accidental, 29 by suicide and two were murders, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ data.

With 50 million visitors to Ohio’s park ever year, that’s one death for every 2.5 million visitors compared with one for every 1.8 million visitors in national parks.

The five officers who are assigned to full time duty at Hocking Hills State Park have increased their trail patrol duties and share shifts with other rangers from around the area.

Ranger Paul Baker said Hocking Hills and John Bryan State Park have some of the only cliffs in the state park system, which helps explain why Hocking Hills had five out of the eight cliff-related deaths since 2008.

“I can’t remember a year when we had the number of fatalities in such a short period,” said Baker, who has worked in the park system since 1994.

Nine people have died at Caesar Creek Lake State Park in the past five years, the second highest behind the 15 at Cleveland Lakefront State Park. In both of those parks, more than half were suicides and the others resulted from drowning.

With the exception of a beach monitor on busy weekends, no lifeguards patrol the beaches at Cowan Lake or Caesar Creek. “That makes it easy for someone who is acting crazy to slip through the cracks and hurt themselves,” said Mark Smith at the park office that covers those two lakes plus Little Miami State Park.

Smith said the parks could use more safety resources, but understands that, “If you want to live a little, you have to take some risks.”

Cowan Lake’s 10 mph speed limit helps minimize boating accidents, but Smith said on Caesar Creek, where speed boats are “flying by,” it’s easier for a small boat or kayak to get flipped and lead to a potential drowning.


Park officials said they are encouraging visitors to never go in the “back country” with less than three people. “In the event one person is unable to continue, the second person can stay with the affected person while the third goes for help,” Bruce said.

Baker estimates between 1 and 2 million people annually hike on trails at Hocking Hills. Although signs don’t warn people of a penalty if they go off trails, rangers can fine off-trail hikers with a $135 citation.

Upper and Cedar Falls at Hocking Hills are hot spots for injuries, with people jumping into shallow pools where swimming is prohibited. Baker said he sees people who jump from the falls return even after breaking their legs.

If accidents do happen, rangers respond with first aid, oxygen, CPR, and a trained rope rescue team if the area can’t be reached by foot. At Old Man’s Cave, where three of the fatalities in the last five years occurred, a clearing provides a landing area for air rescue.

Injuries range from twisted ankles and shortness of breath to those requiring EMT response. Cell phone coverage is limited in the parks, so Bruce advises people to not rely solely on one form of communication.

The Hocking Hills Forest, which is managed by the Division of Forestry but patrolled by state park rangers, offers designated cliffs for rappelling and rock climbing, like the one where Peter Livingston of Centerville, 52, fell to his death this May. Guests need only register at a bulletin board in the parking lot, and the rangers check the area at night to make sure no one is left behind or stuck on the cliffs.

The simple things often make a difference in staying safe in parks, like wearing appropriate footwear, sticking to trails, and using situational awareness, Baker said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in News

Firefighters teach honest 5-year-old an important lesson in good karma
Firefighters teach honest 5-year-old an important lesson in good karma

A fire department is teaching a 5-year-old boy that good things happen to people who do the right thing. Earlier this year, Dave Starzec lost his wallet. He was finishing a trip to a Lowe's hardware store in Greer, S.C., when he set his alligator-skin wallet down on the bumper of his car. Inside the wallet was $2,000. “I was carrying my...
Teacher allegedly had sex with 4 students, including 2 at same time
Teacher allegedly had sex with 4 students, including 2 at same time

A Texas educator is unlikely to see a classroom any time soon after she reportedly admitted to having sex with four students. According to KTRE, Heather Lee Robertson, 38, was arrested Saturday and charged with four counts of “improper relationship between educator and student.” An affidavit shows that the investigation began on April...
FaceApp transforms selfies via neural network
FaceApp transforms selfies via neural network

For better or for worse, a lot of us have gotten used to selfie face filters in apps such as Snapchat and Facebook Messenger that can add silly extremes to our photos and videos, such as sticking a unicorn horn on our head or turning us into superheroes. But FaceApp, an increasingly popular app that debuted in February for iOS and Android, is...
COMMENTARY: Trump and the degradation of the presidency

Donald Trump’s failure to accomplish much or any of his agenda during his first 100 days as president shouldn’t blind us to the vast harm he has done in this comparatively short time to our system of government, especially his degradation of the presidency. From early in the republic, we have looked at the office of the president as a focal...
Woman recalls breathtaking water rescue caught on video
Woman recalls breathtaking water rescue caught on video

A woman is speaking out after she was involved in a hydroplaning accident in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, that ended with her car fully underwater. Video released Friday showed good Samaritans rescuing the woman trapped upside-down inside the submerged vehicle. Now, she says she is doing well, but her car did fill up all the way with water, so she&rsquo...
More Stories