Rope Rescue Team Trains In Case Of Falls In Hocking Hills

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The spring hiking season is here, and one of the most popular places to hit the trails is in the Hocking Hills.

Officials are reminding hikers to stay on the trail and follow the rules after multiple deaths in the area last year.

The Hocking Hills Rope Rescue team is made up of state park officers, equipment operators and members of the county ems squad.

They train at least once a month.

"We have individuals that go off trail and fall off the side of cliffs. We have to use ropes to these non-accessible areas, only way to rescue them out,” said Paul Baker, Assistant Park Manager.

Team members make sure every piece of equipment is in safe and in working order, as one by one, members drop over the side of a cliff during training and are lowered 50 feet to the floor of a gorge. Conkles Hollow is a pristine setting but very dangerous if visitors venture off the marked trail.

"We are not doctors, we will not save everyone, but the quicker we can get them to a doctor, the better off they are,” added Baker.

The Rope Rescue team members have no idea what they will encounter on any given day. They have to be ready to go on a moment's notice and deal with any type of weather condition.

The training is all the more important because of the grim statistics. Three people died in falls last year. There were no fatalities in 2012 but two more in 2011.

This team has rescued dozens of people over the years.

They say they would rather not have to use their rescue and recovery skills, but they are prepared and dedicated when called upon.

"Stay safe, don't go off trail,” adds Baker.

The park is doing other things to keep visitors safe.  Bigger, more noticeable danger signs have been posted. More officers are on patrols and more fines are being given to people who go off the trails.

Officials have also installed thousands of feet of cable and wood fencing - and constructed rock walls - to block people's access to dangerous areas.