CASPER, Wyo. — A Natrona County man who modified an existing concrete pad on Independence Rock to install an American flag has been charged with defacing a landmark by state park’s officials.
Paul Williams, 61, pleaded not guilty to the charge in Natron County Circuit Court on Friday.
Williams, a Marine Corps veteran and lifelong Natrona County resident, told Oil City News he first installed a flag on the existing concrete pad on the monument last summer in anticipation of the Fourth of July weekend. He said the pad had been installed by the Rawlins-based Elks Lodge in 1940.
Later, he found that the flag had been removed and the tube that held the flag cut away. He thought it was possibly due to the wind.
Williams is charged with returning to the site on Sept. 5 and “drilling into the concrete pad on top of the historic site without permission or knowledge of Wyoming State Parks, the managing entity of the site, or the National Historic Landmark’s program which is monitored by the National Parks Service,” the charging document states.
Williams said none of his work on the concrete pad altered the granite dome itself. He said he also incurred some expense in securing the materials to ensure the new flag would stand up to the elements.
Williams said he was charged after calling a state parks official and asking about why the flag was gone, thereby identifying himself as the responsible actor.
The charging document states that uniformed volunteer interpreters asked Williams about his activities on Sept. 5. “None of them told him not to do it, and one volunteer admitted he may have said it was a good idea,” the affidavit says.
Carlo Migliaccio, a superintendent for Natrona County’s state parks, was not the parks official Williams called, but he was familiar with the case.
“What I’d like people to know is we’re always willing to talk with people about what we can do or can’t do [on state parks land],” Migliaccio told Oil City News on Friday. “The reason we ask them to go through official channels is that these landmarks are our public and natural heritage; they belong to everybody.”
Migliaccio confirmed that the Elks Lodge had installed the concrete pad in 1940, and believed it had been used to fly the American flags and on national holidays and special occasions.
He agreed that the state parks department’s primary concern, in this case, was the alteration of the existing concrete pad.
Altering a landmark is punishable by up to six months in prison and a $750 fine. Williams was given a $500 personal recognizance bond Friday.