Forest Service denies permit for Peak 1 flag
SUMMIT COUNTY – It began as a way to work through anger and grief. It continued as a means to commemorate. And now the American flag on Peak 1 may be taken down because it’s on public land.
Kurt Kizer organized the first hike to erect a flag on Peak 1 two years ago, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It was a way for Summit County residents to work through their emotions and grieve for those lost, while also showing patriotism.
A week remains until the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and Everist Materials has offered to donate a replacement flag, and already about 15 people have called Kizer about the hike. But Kizer isn’t sure if there will be a hike this year because the Forest Service has denied him a permit. He still wants to make the commemorative trek up Peak 1 but is concerned that the hike would lose its meaning without the flag.
According to Paul Semmer, acting district ranger for the Dillon Ranger District, the permit that the U.S. Forest Service granted to Kizer last year wasn’t to erect the flag but to allow the group to hike to the top of the mountain.
“The permit that was issued was for hiking up as a group,” Semmer said. “We never did authorize the placement of a flagpole.”
In fact, they couldn’t have. Last year, the land beneath the flag was privately owned. The Forest Service has since completed a land trade, and it now is public land. But erecting a permanent structure or a memorial on Forest Service property goes against the agency’s regulations, Semmer said.
“Granted, it’s public land and everybody owns it … (but) we have rules and regulations that all of us have to abide by. It’s a touchy issue.”
Many people want to build memorials for lost loved ones or pets, he said, but if the Forest Service granted those requests, it would change the character of the backcountry.
For forest officials to grant a special use permit, applicants must show there is a public benefit. But Semmer isn’t convinced Peak 1 is the place for the memorial, since many people aren’t capable of hiking the peak. Some might consider it a visual obstruction. And there is the issue that the flag isn’t maintained properly and becomes tattered from the weather, which may be offensive to some.
“Clearly, it’s not in the public’s interest, and it would be a violation of our policy to allow it to remain,” Semmer said. “It’s not appropriate at that location.”
Forest Service officials might consider granting a permit for the memorials elsewhere – as long as there isn’t a better place for it on private property, that is. But it wouldn’t be on top of a peak, Semmer said.
“Maybe a Frisco town park or a location off the highway,” he said.
If someone chose to erect the flag without a permit, the agency would view it as trespassing and turn it over to law enforcement.
To Kizer, Peak 1 is the most appropriate place for the flag. It’s symbolic to the area and can be seen from most of the county.
It wasn’t until Kizer began organizing a commemorative hike last year that he learned he needed a permit to place the flag on the peak. He paid the U.S. Forest Service $75 for a permit and trekked up the mountain with another group of hikers.
“What’s really amazing is a lot of those people wouldn’t have made it to the top of the mountain (if they were alone),” Kizer said. “They were inspired. I think it uplifted a lot of people to achieve something they might not have otherwise.”
Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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