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Parks And Rec Board Supports Wall At Hell’s Hole

on January 17, 2019 - 10:56am
Parks and Recreation Board discussed ways to make Hell's Hole safer. Courtesy/LAC
Los Alamos Daily Post

Tevor Matuszak, 19, died in July 2017 after falling outside of Hell’s Hole Cave near the Red Dot Trail in White Rock.

This not the first tragedy to occur at this location. In the past, another hiker fell fatally outside this small cave and a third suffered serious injuries while exploring at Hell’s Hole.

During the regular Parks and Recreation Board meeting Thursday, Jan. 10, Matuszak’s parents and County staff discussed methods to prevent any more tragedies from occurring at Hell’s Hole.

One solution that received wide support was to cut off one of the exit points from the cave that is perceived to be most dangerous. The exit would be walled off using rock from the cave and concrete. This would direct people to exit the cave through one of the safer routes.

County Manager Harry Burgess, who proposed walling off the exit to the board, explained to the Los Alamos Daily Post after the meeting that the next step will be to develop a more specific plan to present to the Parks and Recreation board at a future date and, if there is support for the plan, proceed with construction of the wall.

He emphasized Hell’s Hole will not be made completely inaccessible. People would still be able to access the cave.

According to agenda documents, Matuszak’s family approached the County and suggested something be done to make this cave safer. Additionally, Burgess, who is an avid caver, explored the cave himself and met with Matuszak’s family. Discussions were held with the Pajarito Grotto, a local caving club. The result was the recommendation to wall off the most dangerous exit to the cave.

“Everybody-the family, the community and the Parks and Rec Board-supported this idea as the best of all possible solutions,” Burgess told the Post.

Parks and Recreation Board Chair Stephanie Nakhleh told the Post the exit point that is being discussed is especially dangerous because it opens to a sheer 400-foot drop.

So when hikers leave Hell’s Hole, “you are on a very sheer crevasse,” she said; adding, “White Rock Canyon is, in general, a very hazardous, sheer canyon.”

This is an issue that deserves attention because Hell’s Hole is a popular attraction, Nakhleh said.

“Growing up here in Los Alamos it was a rite of passage to go to Hell’s Hole,” she said. “From what I understand, this is still true today.”

But Matuszak’s family hopes no more tragedies occur at this cave. Nakhleh said that Trevor Matuszak’s father Mick originally wanted to dynamite the cave but realized the area was so porous another cave might be created. She added that the Jan. 10 meeting was packed with members of the public and many showed strong support for the proposed wall.

Speaking for herself, Nakhleh said the wall makes a lot of sense because Matuszak’s death was a “horrible and tragic event. The fact that it has happened more than once indicates it’s time to do something about it.”

One of the methods discussed at the Parks and Recreation Board meeting to make Hell's Hole safer was constructing a wall to block the most dangerous exit. Courtesy/LAC