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340 views • posted 11/22/2021 • updated 11/22/2021
Recreational Trails funding was used to provide sign language interpreted tours and advanced audio equipment for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing visitors to the Kartchner Caverns and trail hikes within the park.
In November 1974 two young cavers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetstone Mountains outside of Benson, Arizona. In the bottom of a sinkhole they found a narrow crack leading into the hillside. Warm, moist air flowed out, signaling the existence of a cave. After several hours of crawling, they entered a pristine cavern.
It wasn’t until February 1978 that Tenen and Tufts told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their amazing discovery. During the four years of secret exploration, the discoverers realized that the cave’s extraordinary variety of colors and formations must be preserved. The cave’s existence became public knowledge in 1988 when its purchase was approved as an Arizona State Park.
The park, and cave have since become a popular destination for visitors from around the world, specifically the guided cave tours which are conducted multiple times per day. Accessible pathways developed within the cave allow visitors with mobility issues to access this underground treasure, during which skilled interpretative guides discuss the history and development of the cave. Unfortunately, this type of interpretation excludes visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing.
In an effort to address this issue, Recreational Trails funding was used to provide sign language interpreted tours and advanced audio equipment for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing visitors to the Kartchner Caverns and trail hikes within the park. Funds paid sign language interpreters to participate in regularly scheduled cave tours and other trail hikes.