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In the wake of its $750,000 settlement in the Kolob Creek lawsuit, the Washington County Water Conservancy District hinted Wednesday it might restrict recreational access to its properties.

"The Kolob tragedy should cause the district and other public agencies to evaluate whether facilities should be made available for recreational use," said district manager Ronald W. Thompson.Saying the district intends to do just that, Thompson added, "If public facilities are to be made available to the public, individuals who use these lands and facilities must take responsibility for themselves and their own safety."

His comments came as the district abandoned its earlier silence and revealed the monetary terms of its settlement in a lawsuit involving the drowning deaths of two hikers in Zion National Park. Thompson said the $750,000 will be funded by the district's insurer, CNA Insurance Companies, rather than the district's general revenues.

The district arrived at the settlement with the victims' families and survivors of the 1993 tragedy two weeks ago - three days before the case was to go to trial - but until now declined media requests to discuss the terms.

Kim Ellis and David Fleischer drowned in July 1993 when they and the LDS Church youth group they were leading were caught unawares by a large release of water from the conservancy district's Kolob Reservoirs. The surviving adult and five teenage members of the group were stranded in a narrow slot canyon along Kolob Creek for four days.

The Ellis and Flesicher families and the survivors filed suit in 1994 alleging that the group should have been warned of the danger from the rising waters. They sought more than $24 million in damages.

In a statement released Wednesday, Thompson said the district maintained the temporary confidentiality simply to protect the interest of others involved in the lawsuit.

"At the time the district negotiated the proposed settlement, the plaintiffs' suit against the (U.S.) government had not yet concluded, and in fairness to all those involved, we wanted no information about the district's proposed settlement to hinder or impact the trial whatsoever," Thompson said.

A few days after the district settled with the families and survivors, the U.S. government fol-lowed suit with an $1.49 million payment offer. Thompson said the resolution of the case along with the district board's approval of the terms allowed officials to disclose the settlement amount.

"The district's settlement with the plaintiffs does not include any admission of liability on behalf of the district," Thompson added.

Though there were no admissions of culpability by any of the parties to the suit, government lawyers contended last week that the settlements recognized fault on both sides. Family attorney Robert S. Clark rejected that interpretation as "self-serving."

"In my view, the substantial settlement is a direct vindication of the hikers and a basic concession of fault by the Park Service," Clark said. "The only mistake made by the hikers was trusting the information given to them by the park."

Clark said the families are satisfied with the results of the lawsuit. More important than the money, he said, was their interest in seeing policy and procedural changes made to "make sure that no other person is ever hurt as a result of the mistakes that caused this tragedy."