SALT LAKE CITY — One of southern Utah’s signature towering arches could soon be closed to daredevil rope-swinging.
Citing frustration from visitors marveling at Corona Arch, federal officials are considering outlawing the stunt made so popular on YouTube that state authorities banned it from commercial outfitters last year. The activity involves taking a running leap and swinging like a pendulum through five-story structures.
“Do we look down on folks who do this activity? No, of course not,” said Rock Smith, supervisory outdoor recreation planner at the federal Bureau of Land Management in Moab. “It’s a matter of is it appropriate or not” on lands designated for hiking. “The other side is: We know people like to swing, and we’re not stopping that everywhere, either.”
About 40,000 hikers trek to the sandstone structure each year, and many see it just once, federal officials estimate.
Many of them say they signed up to take in the natural wonder, not an extreme-sports arena filled with daredevil howls.
The plans come amid a recent change in ownership. Last month, the agency gained control of the area in a land swap that dealt state officials oil-rich lands in eastern Utah.
A sign at the trailhead to the 100-foot arch warns thrill-seekers they may swing at their own peril, surrounded by “sheer drops all around.” It continues, “There is high potential for serious injury or death even if your equipment works.”
The agency is considering similar policies at the smaller Bowtie Arch and on 10 acres surrounding nearby Gemini Bridges. They would also end such activities there as rappelling, zip-lining, slack-lining and high-lining, which includes balancing on a taut rope.
Last year, 22-year-old Kyle Lee Stocking of West Jordan died after leaving too much slack in his rope.
Last month, a young New Yorker repeated the deadly miscalculation, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Jack Davidson, 25, is recovering in a long-term care facility from critical injuries, according to police. He was not wearing a helmet when he swung for a sixth time on May 4, crashing 70 feet below.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Moab has begun surveying the area, the first step in imposing a new rule.
Viral videos have given rise to the wild swinging from ropes through arches and canyons. One 2012 video titled “World’s Largest Rope Swing” has racked up more than 23 million views on YouTube.
It’s a relatively new form of recreation in Utah’s canyon lands, which log injuries and deaths from rock climbing and BASE jumping, which involves leaping from a ledge with a parachute.