October 22, 2013

Repercussions for Scout leaders who toppled rock

They’ve been removed from their posts and face charges.

Los Angeles Times

Two Boy Scout leaders who filmed themselves toppling an ancient rock formation in a Utah state park have been removed from their posts by the Boy Scouts of America and face possible criminal charges for their actions at Goblin Valley State Park.

The Scouts’ Utah National Parks Council said the men violated the organization’s “leave no trace” policy in the park.

“As an organization that has been a leader in conservation for more than a century we were shocked and saddened by this irresponsible display of behavior and apparent disregard for our natural surroundings,” Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement.

In the video, posted by Dave Hall to his Facebook page before it went viral, Glenn Taylor can be seen pushing over the top boulder of a mushroom-like rock formation. Once Taylor pushes the boulder off its rock stem, the men, with Taylor’s son Dylan watching, begin cheering.

“Yeah!” Hall cheers in the video as he points the camera at the now-displaced boulder. “We have now modified Goblin Valley! A new Goblin Valley exists with this boulder down here at the bottom.”

The video has prompted death threats from all over the world, and the men were mocked on the “Today” show.

Utah state parks officials have launched a criminal investigation, assisted by the local district attorney, to determine if any laws have been broken, Fred Hayes, director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, told the Los Angeles Times last week.

In an interview with the Times and on their video, the men have insisted that they thought the stone posed a danger and that they toppled the boulder to prevent kids or hikers from injury in the event it fell on its own. Park officials said they had never heard of an instance in which a falling boulder injured a visitor.

Another twist emerged in the case when local CBS affiliate KUTV revealed that Taylor — seen pushing over the large boulder in the video and then celebrating and flexing — had filed a personal injury suit last month over a 2009 car crash that he claimed left him “debilitated,” with “great pain and suffering, disability, impairment, loss of joy of life.”

This led to an awkward encounter between Taylor and KUTV reporter Chris Jones when the reporter quizzed Taylor about his injuries after watching the video.

“You don’t seem very debilitated,” Jones said.

“You didn’t see how hard I pushed,” Taylor replied.

“It looked like you were pushing pretty hard,” Jones said.

“You don’t have my authority to put this online, to put this on the news,” said Taylor, ending the interview.

The journalist aired the report, with a comment from Taylor’s attorney acknowledging that yes, it might not look good in front of a jury that his client is strong enough to push over large boulders. But no, it didn’t mean he had not been injured in the car wreck.

Alan MacDonald, whom Taylor sued after MacDonald’s daughter was involved in the accident, said he found the actions a bit incredible.

“He’s climbing over other rocks,” MacDonald told KUTV. “Then he lines up, gets leverage and pushes that big old rock several times before he finally pushes it over, then he turns and twists and high-fives and yuks it up and flexes his muscles.”

Which led MacDonald to conclude, “He just doesn’t look like a terribly disabled person to me.”

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