A man who finished a small memorial to U.S. veterans three years ago just off Oatman Road (aka Route 66) near Oatman, Arizona, has been ordered to remove it by an official with the Bureau of Land Management, reported the Mohave Valley Daily News.
The veterans’ memorial is reached by a series of stone stairs leading up to two stone pedestals, one of which houses two flags — a solar-powered light illuminates the flags at night — and the other which holds the remains of a destroyed donation box Hicks cemented in place.
Over the past four years, the memorial has attracted traffic by word of mouth and on Internet sites such as the Arizona Office of Tourism and gokingman.com. Visitors post photos of their trip to the memorial on Flickr, Pinterest and their own blogs. Motorcycle clubs, veterans groups and individual travelers of Route 66 share directions to get to the structure, and businesses in Oatman sport photos of its construction.
But now the BLM has ordered the memorial off the site and onto private property, even though the agency knew about it when Hicks was still building it four years ago.
Hicks refused, and he’s probably got a good case on why he can — a recent battle over a war memorial in the Mojave National Preserve ended with the U.S. Supreme Court allowing it. Also, the newspaper explained:
Agencies like the BLM are required by law to balance the use of public lands — whether for activities like mining, maintaining roads and trails for recreation or providing opportunities for hunting and fishing — along with conserving land and water for wildlife and for the enjoyment of future generations.
The question of whether the agencies always find the right balance is an open one. They are, however, bound by laws in place to protect both the present and future needs of public interest and the natural resources the agencies manage.
“While the memorial is for veterans, it is important for all concerned to know that the Bureau of Land Management Kingman Field Office means no disrespect to veterans and fully understand that at times the public would like to construct a memorial or shrine to offer homage to those that have given their lives for the freedoms we all enjoy,” said Sanchez. “This is precisely why Congress approves memorials that represent the sentiments of this country for all our men and women in uniform.”
Individuals considering building a structure on BLM land would need to go to the BLM office with a proposal and apply for an authorization, said Sanchez. Such structures are guided by a federal land use permit under 43 Code of Federal Regulations 2920.
A bartender at the Oatman Hotel in Oatman has started a petition to stop the memorial’s destruction or movement. About 120 people had signed when the article was published, and more undoubtedly have been added to the list.
If I were the BLM, I never would have filed the objection. It’s a sincere, small and tasteful monument, and it’s earned respect from locals and tourism agencies. Hicks owns a sizable advantage of legal precedent. Even if he wanted to move it the stone and concrete structure, Hicks says his health now is too poor to do so.
And the BLM didn’t bother to check into the memorial when Hicks was building it four years ago. At the least, this seems like a “snooze, you lose” for the feds.
For the sake of good public relations and common sense, the BLM ought to quietly and promptly issue a press release allowing Hicks to keep his veterans monument and be done with it. Petty stuff like the current situation enlarges the already-large pile of stuff that gives the federal government a bad name.
(Image of the veterans memorial by Philip Lo Photography)