GUTTENBERG, Iowa (KWWL) – The American flag flying atop Estes Point has inspired veterans and the community for generations.
After an inquiry by a tourist at the Turkey River Mounds State Preserve, leaders within the Iowa Department of Natural Resources realized the location of the flag didn't align with state policy or the US flag code because of a lack of access. This resulted in an announcement that the flag would be coming down. This prompted local veterans groups to pushback, much of the support rallied through Facebook.
In a Wednesday meeting with representatives from the DNR, veterans looked for answers as to why the flag had to come down and how it could stay flying high.
"It's touched many many hearts here. I can feel the love and caring for this flag and where its at,” said Elaine Biermann, who organized the meeting and her husband took care of the flag for more than 3 decades.
Much of the meeting started with a dispute over who owns the land. Attorneys for both the AMVETs group and the DNR concluded the land belongs to the state after pouring over historic records for the boundaries. The AMVETs' attorney explained some of the confusion likely comes from a rail line that was in the original property description but has since been removed.
Harley Andregg, a Vietnam vet, believes he owns the property, because he's paid taxes on it for decades. While his belief was unwavering, he too wanted to see a compromise come forth.
“The flag will stay,” Andregg said. “It's part of us. It's our heritage.”
The issue with where the flag is came after a question was posed to a local DNR representative as to the flag was in such a remote location. Rachel Zander, an attorney for the DNR, said it's highly unusual to see some sort of man made structure in a state preserve which is different than a state park.
US flag code requires the American flag be raised at dawn and lowered at dusk everyday unless it can be lit during the evening hours. Because of the location it's difficult to follow such guidelines.
“We’re here to make that flag stay up there and if we do a land exchange or its turned over to us, we’ve got to get that flag to stay,” suggested one veteran at the meeting.
He and others spoke to how if it's been determined the state owns the land, then the group should look forward for solutions rather than focus on the property debate.
The DNR did propose leasing the land for 3 years, according to the AMVETs' attorney. He and those in the crowd opposed the idea, believing that would just delay the flag coming down.
Listening was the main goal for the session, said the DNR representatives, who expressed their plan to take the citizens' concerns to state leaders. Some suggested those opposed to removing the flag call Governor Kim Reynolds, saying she could lose veterans' votes if she didn't intervene.
There is a commission meeting for the DNR coming up on October 14th and while there isn't anything regarding the Estes' Point flag on the agenda, it's possible the issue could be brought up during public comment.