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Monument maintenance includes rock slides
May 31, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Courtesy photo Staff at Scotts Bluff National Monument brought down a section of loose rock on the summit road before it became a hazard.

A reported rock slide the afternoon of May 23 at Scotts Bluff National Monument was part of the site’s ongoing maintenance program.
Kevin Haberman, facility manager at the monument, said the only damage caused by the slide was to equipment used to clear the debris.

Most of the rock was cleared away that afternoon and some of the larger pieces had to be broken down with jackhammers.
“The slab of rock slid down from the face in one piece and tipped over onto the road,” Haberman said.

The slab of rock, located between the second and third tunnels on the summit road, had been identified last year as an area that could collapse.

Monument Superintendent Ken Mabery said staff brought down the slab as part of preventive maintenance. “We’re always looking for problems areas,” Mabery said. “We try to knock them loose at a time where it will cause the least problems.”

The slab that was brought down on May 24 had been almost completely separated from the rock face by vegetation working its roots into the soil.

“It was going to come down sooner or later,” Haberman said. “We wanted to do it under controlled circumstances before our peak tourism season.”

Haberman said because so many of the area’s monuments are made of sandstone, it doesn’t take much to break them apart. An example is Chimney Rock, which continues to shrink in size due to natural erosion.

Mabery said that with the arrival of new equipment two years ago, they’ve been able to be more aggressive in identifying potential problem areas. “If that slide wasn’t done under controlled conditions, it could have damaged the road quite a bit and blocked the road for some time,” he said.
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