SALT LAKE CITY — Fred Hayes, Utah's parks and recreation director, died unexpectedly Friday. He was 58.
Hayes passed away Friday afternoon at his home in Heber City, the Utah Department of Natural Resources said in a prepared statement. His career at Utah's state parks began more than three decades ago.
A cause of death has yet to be determined but police believe he most likely died of natural causes, said DNR spokesman Nathan Schwebach.
Hayes, who ran the Division of Parks and Recreation for the past six years, raised the profile of Utah's 44 state parks, said Mike Styler, DNR executive director, in the statement. He helped drive attendance and revenue and was developing new recreation programs across the state at the time of his death, Styler said.
Gov. Gary Herbert in a statement issued by the department said Hayes "had a unique ability to connect with people, whether government officials, legislators, local leaders, community partners or his division personnel. His leadership, forward thinking and calming influence have benefited all those he worked with and forged the division's success."
"We have lost a dear friend and a passionate and dedicated supporter of recreation in Utah," Styler said, sending condolences to Hayes' family. "Fred will be sorely missed."
Hayes is survived by his wife Serena and their five children, Styler said.
He began his state parks career in 1982 as a seasonal park ranger aide at Starvation State Park near Duchesne.