Adults Topple 200,000,000-year-old Rock Formations to Make Park “Safer”

Readers — This is a story that makes me ill for three reasons:

1 – It involves a fantastic, irreparable piece of nature being destroyed.

2 – It involves Scouts. My sons are Scouts (in New York City, where there is no discrimination on the basis of anything!). They have learned so much about appreciating nature, as opposed to knocking it — literally.

3 - “Some little kid was about to walk down here and die. It’s all about saving lives.” That. The scout leaders based their decision on something noble — keeping kids safe. (One account I read said they believed a family HAD been crushed to death by one of these boulders before, but I couldn’t find that story. ) But true or not, the problem is that the men decided to “childproof” the world. In reality, the only way to keep kids  safe anywhere (something that can never be 100% assured) is by world-proofing children. Teaching them what to look out for,  what to avoid, and how to be prepared.

Which is pretty much the Boy Scout credo. The Boy Scouts of America issued this statement (that I found on DailyKos):

We are shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior. For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has been a leader in conservation from stewardship to sustainability. We teach our 2.6 million youth members and 1.1 million adult members, who collectively spend more than 5.5 million nights outdoors, the principles of Leave No Trace. These principles stress a commitment to maintaining the integrity and character of the outdoors and all living things. The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach. We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.

To me, this matter is not a Scout issue, but one of Worst-First Thinking: Adults imagining the very Worst case scenario First and proceeding as if it’s likely to happen. When you think that way, ANY action seems justified, because “Children are in danger!” If you’d like to see where else this belief leads us, read the post under this one, about laws to “protect” our children from a non-danger on Halloween. – L.

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29 Responses to Adults Topple 200,000,000-year-old Rock Formations to Make Park “Safer”

  1. pentamom October 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Didn’t scouting used to be about exactly that — teaching kids how to function effectively and safely away from the human-controlled environment? Seems to me a more natural “scouting” approach would be to teach some kind of rule about what to do if you’re around unstable rock formations.

  2. Damon October 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Don’t kid yourself. This wasn’t about keeping kids safe. This was a few jack@55s, little more than mental teenagers, engaging in wanton destruction and vandalism. Then justifying their actions as “protection” all while giggling and laughing. they weren’t really out to protect anything. They were vandals who then realized that might not have been a smart thing to do.
    They should be charged in criminal court, fined…and thrown out of scouts for failing to maintain scouting’s standards on behavior. See page 2 http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/524-501.pdf leadership requirement and qualification sub sections.
    As a longtime volunteer…I am deeply saddened by this.

  3. Ravana October 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    They didn’t care about anyone when they were toppling that rock. They were whooping and laughing and acting like the general selfish asses they are. They figured they could use the “we were worried about the kids” excuse because people don’t question it.

    P.S. I’m glad you found the rare decent boy scout troop. I on the other hand have witnessed boy scouts breaking saplings in a forest preserve, dumping garbage on a trail, and mocking native dancers at a powwow while their leaders watched (and in the case of the powwow lead) the activity.

  4. Layne October 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    The obvious question is, if they felt it was dangerous, why didn’t they just report it to park officials, who are clearly more qualified to make that decision.

  5. Earth.W October 21, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    They’re idiots who never grew up.

  6. Donna October 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Apparently the man doing the toppling is filing for disability because he can’t work due to a back (I think) injury from a car wreck. He can push over an ancient rock formation but not get a job.

    The Boy Scouts have removed them as troop leaders.

  7. Nicole October 21, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I didn’t read all the accounts, but I agree with some of the other commenters, I got the impression they gave that reason after, so they didn’t look so bad. I hope the lesson kids learn from this is don’t be idiots, and don’t videotape your idiocy.

  8. szescstopni October 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Not the first time scouts fixed something ancient. In 1992 the IgNobel prize in archeology was awarded to a French scout organization. From the IgNoble site:

    Eclaireurs de France, the Protestant youth group whose name means “those who show the way,” fresh-scrubbed removers of grafitti, for erasing the ancient paintings from the walls of the Meyrieres Cave near the French village of Bruniquel. – See more at: http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig1992

    It appears that a 15,000 years old cave painting of a mammoth was scubbed completely

  9. hineata October 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Yeah, maybe ‘some little kids’ could be taught not to walk/crawl under the ‘precariously balanced’ rock – seems like common sense. Something these ‘leaders’ are clearly lacking. Not very impressed with the game they had their kids playing earlier either, which involved leaping from rock to rock – great fun but surely something that could be done somewhere that doesn’t involve destabilising a geological treasure. My kids play the same kind of game even now, on rock formations that are, duh, stable….The same kids climb trees, but wouldn’t think of climbing Tane, God of the Forest in Northland, even if that were possible without hacking into its trunk.

    Hard to believe they made the grade for Scout leaders.

  10. Eileen October 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Here’s an NBC Blog entry which includes the claim that a family posed under it or something.

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/18/21023331-utah-scout-leaders-who-toppled-ancient-rock-we-did-something-right-the-wrong-way

    As mentioned, they should be trained in LNT and they should also have been responsible for reviewing any rules that applied to the park they were hiking in before taking the kids into it. (well, everyone should do that)

    We recently hiked in Yosemite and we found all hikers very helpful in sharing information that make your trip more enjoyable and safer…because it’s common sense. We were descending a very rocky section and those of us going down helped those going up with tips (and encouragement) and vice versa. It’s not a typical hiker (let alone leader) that would resort to “fixing” anything, but rather would advise his group to go this way or avoid that thing, etc.

    I have no problem with leaders wanting to keep their troop safe, but altering the path is clearly not the way to do so. Just looked like a bunch of knuckleheads.

  11. Eric the Half-bee October 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    As of this morning, the two men have been removed from their Scouting positions and from the BSA. As a Scout leader myself, I think that the real damage is to the Scouts, who watched their ‘leaders’ engage in truly un-Scout-like behavior. They caused damage to more than one irreplaceable hooodoo, they demonstrated to their Scouts that such behavior is acceptable, if the fun factor dictates it, and you can come up with a plausible excuse. In just a few minutes, they undermined all of the ethics they were supposedly teaching their young charges.

    I’m also an Assistant Scoutmaster, and I go to great lengths to teach my boys that such is not the case: to leave the squirrels and rattlesnakes alone, not to mention million-year-old formations; to “take only photographs, leave only footprints”. It is my sincere hope that whatever happens to these men, whatever charges leveled and punishments meted out, that the lessons of those consequences are not lost on the Scouts they were ‘leading.’

  12. Andy October 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    This has nothing to do with safety and a lot to do with vandalism. I do not believe they have been safety motivated, they did it for fun.

  13. Gina October 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    I heard the tail-end of this story and I assumed it was kids playing a stupid prank. I am astonished that it was adults; this disgusts me beyond words.
    The formation has been there for thousands of years and they thought it would suddenly fall? On a child? Let’s calculate THOSE odds!

  14. lollipoplover October 21, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    Why not take sledgehammers to cars in parking lots because the *could* hit a child or injure them in a car accident?

    There is nothing noble about vandalizing a natural formation that’s been enjoyed for generations. I’m glad they were removed from leadership positions. I hope that the leader who is collecting disability while pushing boulders is investigated too. What a loser!

  15. Rachel October 21, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    It is so sad that the rock formation was destroyed–and symbolic of the destruction and injustices that are the side effects of people trying to childproof the world. Here, it’s the environment. In other stories on the Free Range Kid’s site, we’ve seen the destruction of lives, relationships, and experiences.

    Lenore, I agree with you. Better to show kids how to climb the rock safely, or to know when it is too unstable to climb. Same with ever other experience kids will face as they grow up.

  16. Renee Anne October 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    I’d believe that they were justified in their idea of safety for everyone if they hadn’t been laughing, giggling, and egging each other on.

    I hope they rot in prison.

  17. IKnowEverything October 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    And in 200,000,000 years, not one kid died. If this is a Federal landmark, or even state (public lands) these people had no right to deface it, alter it, or to tamper with it. They should be fined for damages.

    Are we complaining to the Boy Scouts that their leaders have a few rock loose — in their heads?!?

    That was a thing of beauty — naturally designed and should have been revered.

    If there were so “fearful” of a child getting hurt — DO NOT TAKE YOUR CHILD THERE!

  18. Warren October 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    They do not deserve prison time. They need to have one hour of community service for every year that formation stood. They need to spend that time cleaning, and working for the park, itself.

  19. Nicole October 22, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    Wow, just, wow. I agree- the punishment should be them having to clean up the park.

    I understanding a “controlled demolition” if an object is dangerous (such as a boulder perched above a walking path). But this is just two idiots messing around.

  20. Eileen October 22, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    The interesting thing to me (from the various articles I’ve read) is how they admit their bad decision and talk about doing it the ‘right’ way or getting a ranger to do it. I’m not sure if that’s a soundbite they are trying to put out there or if they really believe that the rangers would have toppled it themselves (which they’ve stated the wouldn’t of course).

    I realize now it’s PR-time, but I’m puzzled at them admitting their stupidity, yet still putting out more inaccurate statements.

    People make mistakes…this is a big one. I agree with community service that will foster their appreciation for LNT and geology. The fact that other idiots are sending them death threats…ugh. I don’t believe “rotting in prison” is a productive way to punish them either.

  21. Reformed Republican October 22, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    Look how dangerous. That rock could have fallen over at any moment. The guy barely blew on it and it fell right over.

  22. Gary October 22, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Wanna know what Scouts are supposed to do?

    Go to Lakehurst Naval Air Station and run around the woods and makeshift desert during the day, scrounging up pieces of camo netting, para cord and who knows what the hell else and then at night sit at the edge of the makeshift desert and listen to the tracked vehicles do night maneuvers, then chase each other around until Tommy _____ trips over one of the tent guide wires and damm near breaks his rubs all while setting sterno cans on fire and rolling them around.

    Oh, and also watch a trooper drift waaaaaaay of course and follow him deep into the woods to see his land in a tree all while watching the guys in the jeeps keep track and be there when he lands…

    Or even better, the annual trip to Hancock in the winter so you sled down Suicide Hill and watch some kid, ummm, we’ll call him Gary, cross the frozen stream only to have one boot break thru and go knee deep into freezing ass water.

    THAT’S Scouting…

    PLus we did other stuff that I probably shouldn’t talk about

  23. Erika October 22, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Agreed with those below that say they were using “safety” as an excuse. They’re idiots and vandals.

  24. Emily October 22, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    I agree with Warren about the community service in the park. One hour for each year the formation stood sounds like a good way to measure it, although who knows how long it’d take to finish two hundred million hours of community service–would that be two hundred million hours per person, or two hundred million hours combined? Anyway, however the math works out, I’d just like to add that these men should be working under supervision, because they’ve already proven that they don’t have good enough judgement to be left to their own devices in a national park. After all, that’s how they got into this mess in the first place.

  25. Backroads October 22, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    This infuriated me even more so because it was so close to home. My Scout council is two councils north of this one and Goblin Valley is one of my favorite parks. In fact, I was somewhat thrilled they weren’t from my council!

    It was irresponsible and stupid of them.

  26. QB October 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    These men should be imprisoned for their actions. That video made my stomach turn.

  27. mike October 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Hi Lenore-

    Love the site and the message you spread about the nuttiness that is rampant in today’s parenting…

    The first link (this is a story) in this listing (above the video) doesn’t appear to go to the article about this- instead to links to the same page as the last link (re: dangerous Halloweeen). Just wanted to let you know.

    Keep up the great work!

  28. Rachael October 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    They claim they had to do it because one of their scouts could have ‘accidentally knocked it over’… Did you see how hard a large, grown man had to push and wiggle to get it to go? Bracing himself on the other rock and everything. Like a 12 year old kid could accidentally do that.
    This is worst first thinking mixed with immaturity and no thought of consequences. A very dangerous combo.
    But wait… Isn’t that the way many kids are brought up thinking these days? Everyone/thing is out to get them, they’re not expected to be an adult until after 30 and there are no consequences, ‘mommy will take care of it’.

  29. Earth.W October 22, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    I read an article saying that these two have been removed from the Scouts and are now facing criminal charges.