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GRAVEL PIT, CAVE ARE FEW OF POST’S OFF-LIMITS AREAS

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When an individual notices an off-limits sign on Fort Knox that means the area shouldn’t be accessed, and going beyond the sign constitutes trespassing. But the off-limits sign near the walking track on Wilson Road hasn’t been a deterrent for some people.

Lt. Jerry Laplace, a Fort Knox game warden, said there is a cave located about 50 yards from the Wilson Road walking track. He pointed out that individuals are going into the cave, and the evidence is the graffiti on the wall. They have also seen teenagers going into the cave.

“There is some damage to the cave and this is also a bat area,” explained Laplace. “We are trying to preserve the area for bats.”

Although many may not know the cave exists, Laplace said teenagers know about it through social media and word spreads because it’s a unique area on Fort Knox.

“I’ve been here since ’09 and I was told about this the second week I was here,” said Sgt. Jon Ash, a game warden. “This used to be one of our checks when I was on the night shift to see if anybody was hanging out here.”

Laplace added that inside of the cave there is a 50 to 100 foot drop and it’s continuously eroding which presents other dangers.

“It’s continuously eroding from the top so every time it erodes the cave becomes more unstable in certain areas,” he said. “It is a limestone cave and when water goes through it, it damages the limestone which makes it weaker and it collapses.”

Ash said on the mouth of the cave is a rock that’s about twice the size of an all-terrain vehicle.

“If that falls on somebody they are not making it out of that,” said Ash.

Being unstable isn’t the only problem of the cave. Laplace said, when it rains and there is a flash flood on post, being in the cave could become fatal.

“One foot of water will carry a 200-pound person downstream without any effort,” Laplace said. “A person standing in 1 foot of water while it’s rushing is not going to be able to stand up. The jagged stone (inside the cave) has been created by rushing water that’s come through (the cave).”

Another danger of exploring the area has been unexploded ordinances, said Laplace. He pointed out that there are munitions on post and they aren’t supposed to be touched. But Ash said that hasn’t stopped those who explore the cave.

“We found old rounds that had been pulled into the cave that weren’t there before,” he said. “They found them and brought them back and (had) fires (in the cave). Our concern is they will say ‘let’s throw it in the fire and see what happens.’

“You can see the black spots in the cave (that) shows where the last fire was,” Laplace said.

Although the inside of the cave is dry if it isn’t raining, Ash said that’s not true for the other side. He said that the water has artesian bed springs and that means moss. If an individual is walking along the water and not wearing the right kind of shoes, such as sneakers or flip flops, that presents a risk. If someone were to fall down help may not be readily available because cellphone reception is almost nonexistent.

“We had someone come through here (a couple of years ago) and it took multiple hours to find them because they didn’t have enough reception to call out,” explained Ash. “We had to rappel on the backside of the rock quarry down to where they were (located).”

Brian Wood, a Fort Knox safety specialist, said the cave areas as well as other off-limits areas aren’t safe because they present hazards. He said people shouldn’t be in unauthorized areas and drinking alcohol in these areas, especially ledges, because they
can present fatal situations. Some of the cliffs have drop offs that are about 100 to 200 feet. Adding alcohol is dangerous because an individual can fall off of the cliff and if it’s dark Wood said the person who isn’t familiar will have problems finding their way out of the area.

“If you want to go hiking or cave exploring go to areas that are authorized or have a guide,” said Wood. “If you go tell someone so they know when you are coming back in case something happens and have a plan if you are (going to participate in) outdoor activities.”

Wood said situational awareness is vital and teenagers aren’t always paying attention and that makes it easier for them to get lost in one of the 109,000 acres on Fort Knox.

Wood pointed out that Otter Creek and the extensive caves in Kentucky should be visited instead of going into unauthorized places on post.

“It’s important for parents to tell teenagers to not go into these areas (and to let them) know where (they) are going,” he said. n