LOGAN, Ohio — With a busy holiday weekend ahead, state officials are planning safety improvements in the popular Hockings Hills region of southeastern Ohio after three people died recently in fatal falls from its high cliffs.
Signs warning hikers not to leave marked trails are being enhanced, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said. Rangers also have increased trail patrols and are issuing more citations to people who stray from them.
ODNR spokeswoman Eileen Corson said today the signs will be made larger with new color schemes to make them stand out more.
Ranger Paul Baker II told The Columbus Dispatch that the changes will be made to blend with the rugged surroundings of Hocking Hills State Park, which attracts more than 1 million visitors annually. Officials have warned that the sandstone cliffs are mossy and slippery.
The majority of accidents in Ohio state parks happen when hikers leave the marked trails, officials said. Corson said rangers have written 50 citations for the violation in the past three weeks. They carry a $135 fine.
“Our officers are out there, and they are enforcing the law and giving citations for people who go off trails, because we want people to be safe and be able to enjoy the park,” she said.
The hiker who fell Monday in Hocking Hills State Park was 66-year-old John Schneider of Bay Village, near Cleveland. Baker said he fell about 3:30 p.m. when he stepped too close to the edge and slipped.
On Saturday, 52-year-old Peter Livingston died when he fell while rappelling with a Boy Scout group in the Hocking Hills State Forest. Officials said he fell about 125 feet while he was lowering a gear-filled backpack attached to a harness on his waist.
On April 27, 19-year-old Josias Rodriguez died at Hocking Hills State Park. Officials said he was hiking with friends when he left the marked trail to climb a rock face, then fell as he tried to climb down.
The forest and state park area are separate. Both are located about 50 miles southeast of Columbus.
Those accidents came after zero deaths in Ohio state parks last year and two fatal falls statewide in 2011.