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Hiking Utah
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By Nate Carlisle, Jason Bergreen, Erin Alberty and Brett Prettyman

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(Tribune file photo) Hikers among the rock formations at The Wave in the Coyote Buttes area of the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness on the Utah/Arizona border in September 2007.
What to do about Utah and Arizona’s The Wave?

The Tribune’s Matt Piper did a good job last week of addressing possible ways of preventing future deaths in the beautiful but remote wilderness area on the Utah-Arizona line called The Wave.

Considering the options from Piper’s article, here is a list of pros and cons.

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Put up more signs • Pro: Always good for directions; low-impact. Con: Eliminates some of the wilderness feel; unless you put signs everywhere you’re not going to help every lost hiker.

Cairns • Pro: Works on plenty of other trails; low-impact. Con: Not as communicative as a sign.

Cell towers • Pro: Will facilitate communication for those who need help. Con: Are you kidding? I go to the wilderness to get away from the phone!

Rent GPS devices to hikers • Pro: Can provide better directions than signs or cairns while being unobtrusive. Con: You going to train every hiker on how to use the devices, too? What if the GPS breaks or batteries fail?

Let more hikers in • Pro: More eyeballs could mean more help for those who need it; everyone should see The Wave anyway. Con: But not necessarily at the same time; what if the guy giving you directions is as lost as you?

Do nothing • Pro: Preserves The Wave. Con: Sooner or later, someone else is going to die.

It may not happen again this year or for a few years. And someone may die even if you make one or some of these changes. Even under the permit system, The Wave gets thousands of visitors a year. You can’t protect everyone.

The Bureau of Land Management says a working group will meet to decide what, if any, changes to make at The Wave. What do you think should be done? Comment below, send us a tweet or post a message on our Facebook page.

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