By Cecilia Chan
Glendale staff is looking at the logistics and legality of planting a flag pole as tall as a two-story house on one of the highest peaks in Thunderbird Conservation Park near 59th Avenue and Pinnacle Peak Road.
City Council in last week’s workshop gave the go-ahead to study the proposal of erecting a permanent pole with aircraft warning light at Arrowhead Point. Glendale has to date removed 13 American flags placed by a resident at the park’s three peaks because it is a violation of the city code that guards the 1,185-acre park in the Hedgpeth Hills against encroachment.
Mayor Jerry Weiers raised the issue as an item of special interest on behalf of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The committee proposes to fund the pole and its installation and maintenance with help from the community, he said.
“The symbolism of putting your flagpole on top of the mountain is the fact that it’s your mountain,” the mayor said. “It’s symbolic in a lot of different war movies, Iowa Jima and lots of different places.”
Not everyone on the council were in agreement.
Councilman Bart Turner said he understands that people get a joy out of seeing the flags on the mountain but they are on poles that are 6 to 8 feet tall. Putting the proposed 20 to 25 feet tall pole on top of a peak is something he can not support. But, he said, he can support a flag pole in the parking lot, the main entrance way at 59th Avenue or the picnic area.
Mr. Turner said he wanted the pole somewhere where it does not become a prominent feature in view and negatively impact the conservation nature of the park.
Councilwoman Lauren Tomolchoff, an avid hiker, has been to the top of Arrowhead Point a few times and seen the flag.
She said she has talked to quite a few park users and they seem not in support of a flag pole on the mountain.
“The fact that it is conservation park means a lot to those of us who love that park,” she said.
She said only people fit and healthy enough to climb the moderately difficult trail up to Arrowhead Point can see the flag. And, she said, residents living in homes below the trail would not appreciate the light shining from the flag pole.
Instead, she would support a pole down in the park by a sidewalk such as the ramada area, which would be accessible to everyone and be easier to maintain. She also supported moving the issue forward to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, where more public input can be solicited.
Councilwoman Joyce Clark said she would like to see the flag on top of the mountain but if that fails because of the technicality of bringing lights and a pole onto the mountain, she suggested staff explore the park’s main entrance as a possible location.
“I think it would satisfy those people who have a need to express patriotism without necessarily encroaching on those people who are strictly conservationists and feel it’s inappropriate to put it on top of a peak in a conservation park,” she said.
For Councilman Ray Malnar, a pole on top of the mountain or at its base was OK with him.
He said placing the flag pole on top is so that everyone can see it from a long distance away but the concerns he has with that included on-going maintenance such as raising and lowering of the flag and replacing it when needed.
Councilman Jamie Aldama said he supported a flag pole on top of the mountain 100 percent.
“It is the very freedom that the flag symbolizes that has allowed cities to have conservation parks,” he said. “That is where it comes from.”
That said, he recognized it is a conservation park and asked staff to look into a less-intrusive pole that would blend into the mountainside.
Mayor Weiers said putting in a pole would not be invasive because it does not require a slab of cement but simply drilling a hole, dropping in the pole and packing it in with sand.
Lights can be installed to illuminate the flag at night and not cause a problem for homeowners and a warning light for aircraft would not be a beacon but rather a small red light, added the mayor, who is a licensed pilot.
“If worse came to worse and it had to be at base, yeah I can live with that,” Mayor Weiers said. “But that is not what I want and I believe that is not what any of the veterans want. They want that symbolic feeling of where you get to the top and you plant your flag., That is when it means something.”
Staff expects to return with its findings to the council in a workshop between February and April. If the issue moves forward it then goes before the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee between April and May with a final review and decision by the council anticipated in June.