Forest Service reverses Peak 1 flag decision
SUMMIT COUNTY – The U.S. Forest Service has reversed its decision and announced Thursday it will permit the commemorative hike up Peak 1 to replace the flag erected in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Frisco resident Kurt Kizer organized the first hike to place a flag on the mountaintop as a way for locals to work through their emotions and honor those lost.
He was unavailable Thursday to comment on the change of heart, or when the hike would take place.
When Kizer organized a commemorative hike last year, the Forest Service informed him he needed a permit. He paid the $75 for a permit and was ready to do the same this year when officials told him they could not allow a permanent structure or memorial on public land.
Though the memorial goes against Forest Service regulations, the agency now is inviting the hiking group to get a permit for the event again this year, said Martha Ketelle, supervisor for the White River National Forest.
“It’s not consistent with regulations regarding monuments on national forest land,” she said. “However, considering the event that they’re memorializing and that the people in Summit County feel strongly about their hike to the top, we want to permit it.”
Several people called the Forest Service and others contacted the Summit Daily News Thursday to express their dismay at the agency’s initial decision to deny a permit to replace the flag this year.
Frisco resident Katherine Ebert-Flynn, a retired lieutenant colonel, said she was “appalled” that the Forest Service denied a permit to place a flag on Peak 1 “in honor of our fallen of 9-11.”
Breckenridge resident Becky Johnson was preparing to start a petition to reverse the decision.
“I look at it every day and it’s an inspiration to me,” Johnson said.
Both were pleased to hear Ketelle’s decision – as many other locals likely will be.
“It made my day,” Johnson said. “It will make a lot of people’s day because there’s a lot of people who are upset about it.”
“The issue of flags on National Forest land has come up in the past in other parts of the country (since 9-11),” Ketelle said. “We feel it’s better to let the flags stand. The people have a lot of passion around that. This really is a unique situation.”
The Forest Service will grant a permit for a group to climb the mountain to replace the flag. Technically, the permit is for the event only, not to place the flag on the mountaintop. But Ketelle said the agency will not require that the flag be removed and officials understand that the hikers will replace the tattered flag with a new one.
Their decision applies to this year only, however, and Ketelle said the issue likely will have to be addressed anew each year.
Ebert-Flynn wants the Forest Service to allow the flag indefinitely and without an annual permit.
“It is Summit County’s only living memorial to those who died,” she said.
Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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