Utah parks director Fred Hayes found dead at home

State Parks director Fed Hayes sits with a cutout of Butch Cassidy. Hayes died Friday at age 58. Undated. | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Natural Resources, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah’s state parks director has died unexpectedly.

State Parks director Fred Hayes at the Butch Cassidy home. Hayes died Friday at age 58. Undated. | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Natural Resources, St. George News

Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Recreation Director Fred Hayes died Friday at age 58.

The department said Hayes’ body was found in his Heber City home. Hayes was alone when he died, and police believe Hayes probably died of natural causes, DNR spokesman Nathan Schwebach said.

Schwebach talked to St. George News about Hayes.

“One thing that stuck out for me in getting to know him was just how passionate he was,” Schwebach said. “Particularly about recreation, but also about his employees and everyone he worked with.”

Schwebach said Hayes wanted each visitor to a state park to get the most of out of their visit.

“He was just so passionate about making sure that the state parks system was getting the most out of the system – that those who recreate within the system are having fantastic experiences.”

Hayes became director in 2012 after starting with the parks system in 1982 as a seasonal ranger and then rising through the ranks. He previously worked as a teacher.

Gov. Gary Herbert said Hayes had “a unique ability to connect with people” and that he provided “leadership, forward thinking and calming influence.”

Deputy directors Jeff Rasmussen and Scott Strong will be handling the day-to-day affairs of the department until the department leadership team meets and decides what direction to take as far as a new director is concerned, Schwebach said.

“Both Jeff and Scott are fantastic in what they do,” Schwebach said. “I think Fred did a fantastic job in organizing a great team of very capable leaders to carry parks through this.”

Hayes is survived by his wife Serena and their five children.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Brooke March 6, 2018 at 2:39 am

    Matt Sheridan started Fred’s career by hiring him as a seasonal ranger at Starvation Lake State Park. Even then He recognized what an outstanding person he was! He was always passionate about recreation, whether it was at a lake or in a museum. He truly cared about the visiting public!

  • redrock4 March 7, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    In the picture he looks at risk of a heart attack.

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