A group of Boy Scouts leaders may face criminal charges after purposely knocking over an ancient Utah desert rock formation and posting a video of the incident online, authorities say
The men were leading a group of 14 to 16-year-old Boy Scouts on a trip to Goblin Valley State Park when they said they noticed the top of the rock formation was loose and feared it was dangerous.
"This is about saving lives," Dave Hall, who shot the video, told The Associated Press on Friday. "One rock at a time."
The rock formation is about 170 million years old, Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg said. The park in central Utah is dotted with thousands of the eerie, mushroom shaped sandstone formations.
In a video posted on Facebook, Glenn Taylor of Highland, Utah, can be seen last Friday wedging himself between one formation and a boulder to knock a large rock off the formation's top. Taylor and his two companions can then be seen cheering, high-fiving and dancing.
"This is not behavior that is appreciated or should exist in state parks," Swalberg told the Deseret News. "This has been formed for literally millions of years, and it's supposed to last for a long time. It doesn't need individuals doing the work of Mother Nature."
Hall, who is also a scoutmaster from Highland, said some of their Scouts were jumping on the structures and they noticed a large boulder on top of one structure was loose.
"My conscience won't let me walk away knowing that kids could die," Hall said.
While safety was their motivation, Hall said, it was exciting to knock it over, and that's why they reacted with high-fives and cheers in the video.
"You can't have a rock the size of a car that you can push with one hand, and have it roll, and not have an adrenaline rush," Hall said. "It was a crazy, exciting moment."
Taylor told Salt Lake City news organizations on Thursday that he felt the rock move when he put his hand on it.
He said after he knocked the formation over, he wished he hadn't and he realized he should have contacted a park ranger. But he also said he feels he did the right thing.
"As it is, I feel guilty because I have a conscience," he told the Deseret News. "But my conscience also says I did the right thing."
Hall, too, said he wished they had contacted a park ranger, but did not wish they hadn't knocked it over.
Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith confirmed the men are members of the organization, saying in a statement that the organization is "shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior."
Boy Scout troops spend countless hours in state and national parks, guided by the principle of leaving nature the way they find it, Smith said.
"The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach," Smith said. "We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action."
Swalberg said State Parks authorities are conducting a criminal investigation.
"This is highly, highly inappropriate," Swalberg told the Salt Lake Tribune. "This is not what you do at state parks. It's disturbing and upsetting."
Brent Langston with the Emery County Attorney's Office said his agency is aware of the incident has not yet started evaluating whether they'll file charges.
“The county attorney’s office has spoken with the state park representative but as of this date, no reports have been submitted and no charges have been filed. The county attorney’s office will review the case upon completion of the investigation and determine what action to take at that point,” the office said in a press release obtained by ETV 10 News Friday afternoon.
The men involved could face a misdemeanor or a felony depending on how much officials determine the formation was worth, Langston told the Tribune.
"Some things can't be replaced, like photographs in a family album, but they have great sentimental value," he said.
Hall said he and Taylor were both "immensely sorry for any damage that we may have caused," or any embarrassment they brought to the Boy Scouts or anyone else.
But he also said, "One more rock falling to the ground is not going to destroy the beauty of the park. Eventually, the erosion brings all of them down."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.