Of the 130 merit badges a Boy Scout can earn, including such survival skills as emergency preparedness and first aid, toppling ancient rocks is certainly not one of them. A couple of troop leaders recently pulled a very meritless stunt when they brought down a 170-million-year-old rock formation in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park.
According to the New York Daily News, Boy Scouts of America troop leaders Glenn Taylor and David Hall face felony charges after the pair purposely knocked over one of the mushroom-shaped ancient rock formations in Goblin Valley, a state park distinguished by its thousands of unique sandstone hoodoos – tall, thin spires of rock formed by erosion.
“It’s a valley full of these rocks that are perched up on these earth platforms, and obviously we’re very concerned and upset that someone would come and destroy this natural wonder that took millions of years to be formed,” Jeff Rasmussen, deputy director of Utah State Parks and Recreation, told Fox 13 News.
Park officials became aware of the troop leaders’ harebrained stunt after they came across a video posted to the Facebook page of one of the men involved in toppling the Utah rock.
In the video, filmed by Hall, Taylor is seen shoving the boulder with both arms until the base of the boulder crumbles.
Hall instructs Taylor to “wiggle it” to apparently loosen the rock. After some “wiggling,” the ancient rock formation crashes to the desert floor, much to the adulation of the men who witnessed Taylor push the boulder over.
The two troop leaders, along with a third companion who is seen in the video, cheer, dance and applaud Taylor for pushing the 170-million-year-old formation to the ground.
"We have now modified Goblin Valley," Hall says in the video. "A new Goblin Valley exists, with, uh, this boulder down here at the bottom.”
“Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die, and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way,” Hall says. “It’s all about saving lives here in Goblin Valley.”
According to the Associated Press, the two men were leading a troop of 14- to 15-year-old boy scouts on a trip to Goblin Valley. When they came across the rock formation, they thought it looked loose and feared that it could be dangerous. The troop leaders reportedly decided to knock the ancient rock over before it could hurt someone.
“This is about saving lives,” Hall told the Associated Press. “One rock at a time.”
Hall later elaborated on their intentions to NBC News: "We came across this two- to three-thousand-pound boulder that was resting on about an inch-and-a-half-thick, razor-thin ledge of dirt.
"Upon putting a little pressure on it, you could see that it was moving and just then a couple of families walked up right below that rock and went around it…and stopped for a family photo.
"And the thought that went through our minds was if this would have fallen while they were coming up that valley, up that very well-used walkway, numerous fatalities would have happened."
Not surprisingly, the Boy Scout leaders’ actions drew a lot of head-shaking and condemnation from those who say their actions were inappropriate and uncalled for. Even the Boy Scouts of America spoke out against the troop leaders’ stunt.
“We are shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts, said in a statement on Friday according to NBC News. "The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach."
Smith continued: "We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.”
“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,” Eugene Swalbert, a spokesman for the park system, told the Desert News.
According to CBS News, the men involved in toppling the ancient rock recognized their actions were uncalled for and that they should have contacted park rangers.
Hall added, however, that "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."
If convicted of felony charges, the two men won’t be able to serve as troop leaders for the Boy Scouts any longer.
Here’s the video footage, shot by Hall and uploaded to YouTube, of the ancient rock being toppled: