SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – State officials announced that Fred Hayes, director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, died Friday afternoon at his home in Heber City. The cause of death remains unknown.

Hayes was appointed division director in 2012. During his tenure, Utah’s 44 state parks experienced record attendance and profitability annually and has aggressively been developing and creating new recreational opportunities statewide, according to a statement from Utah Parks.

“We have lost a dear friend and a passionate and dedicated supporter of recreation in Utah. Fred will be sorely missed. Our immediate concern is for Fred’s family, his wife Serena and their five children,” said Mike Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “Our condolences go out to them at this difficult time. Fred was dearly loved by his employees in State Parks and everyone at DNR that had an opportunity to work with him.”

“Fred has made a significant contribution to Utah’s diverse and extensive outdoor recreation industry. My condolences go to Serena and the entire Hayes family, ” said Governor Gary Herbert. “Fred 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.”

Hayes began his state parks career in 1982 as a seasonal park ranger aide at Starvation State Park. He held numerous positions with the division, including park ranger, nature center education specialist, off-highway vehicle coordinator, and deputy director.