A flag that has been flying over Clayton County has the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and area residents at odds as to whether the flag can remain at the peak it has flown over since 1917.
Known as Estes Point, the flag may be seen from Highway 52 near Millville, looking to the east.
Clayton County resident Harley Anderegg believes the flag sits on land he and his wife, Mary, have owned and paid taxes on since 1981. DNR officials say the flag sits in the Turkey River Mound State Preserve and may need to come down.
At a meeting between the two sides at a Guttenberg park Oct. 6, DNR District Supervisor Detra Dettmann heard loud and clear from everyone in attendance they want the flag to remain.
Garber resident and Vietnam veteran Ed Van Lennep believes the veterans’ group trying to keep the flag at the point should be allowed to do so.
“Many of us have shed blood for this flag. We feel we have a say so in what flies in this county or this state. We will do whatever we can so Old Glory keeps flying on that point. When I left for Vietnam, that flag waved to me. When I returned, it welcomed me home.”
Van Lennep called for state officials to find a workable solution. “I think with the state having a billion dollars in surplus, the state should work with this group and come up with a decision where we can still fly the flag legally, put a light on it for everybody to see and that flag will fly from now until eternity.”
DNR attorney Rachel Zander said officials were at the meeting to listen and to take comments and concerns back to the DNR. But she addressed a comment that says the Andereggs are the owners of the section with the flag.
“The DNR has been in communication with the Andereggs and their attorney about who owns the property. DNR land records show the original plat. We understand what Beacon shows, but that is a summary database for convenience purposes. The original documentation shows the state preserve is owned by the DNR and it shows the boundaries. From the DNR’s perspective, it’s a pretty open and shut matter on ownership of the preserve.”
Justin Vorwald, attorney for the veterans’ group, said a lack of a physical boundary is complicating the issue. “Back in the day, there were two railroad lines through this area. At one point, the southern line was removed, but the legal description for Harley’s originally referenced this line. I can’t say definitively, but I think the DNR is right about this that is was supposed to be the southern line that was the boundary and that isn’t there anymore.”
Steve Eglseder, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, said the issue shouldn’t be about who owns the land, but about the flag. “We don’t want the flag down, so if the DNR owns the land, we are telling them it ain’t coming down. What we need to do is tell (Iowa Governor) Kim Reynolds veterans vote. You take down that flag Kim Reynolds and every veteran better vote against her as governor.”
Dettmann said a visitor to the preserve came across the flag and questioned why the flag and pole were on the land.
“The flag has flown a long time and I totally understand that from your perspective,” she said. “Any question I get on our area, if I don’t know the answer, I try to find out the background and information. That’s what started the conversation within our department many months ago and what has led us to where we are today.”
Officials have proposed a compromise of sorts, one that would allow the flag to remain on the point for three more years at a cost of $150 per year. In addition, since there is no light on the flag, federal flag guidelines would require someone to raise the flag each morning, take it down each evening and raise it to half staff when ordered.
Zander said a light may not be used for the flag because of the status of the preserve. “The preserve is a biological and archeological preserve, so with that status, a light could interfere with the integrity of the preserve.”
Vorwald told the group he believes the DNR’s offer is unworkable. “Anybody who has been up there knows that is not a small hill. It’s 300 feet up there. I don’t think that is workable, but that is the DNR’s proposal and that’s where we stand.”
Vorwald encouraged those in attendance to reach out to state officials. “You who care about this need to reach out to the people who make the decisions. The DNR is only doing their job. What I’d like to see ultimately is an acre of ground sold to the combat veterans group or to Harley, who would have the ground with the agreement we can put the flag up however we want to do it. We could then give them the rest of the ground back because we don’t want the ground, we just want the flag.”
Van Lennep told Zander and Dettmann the group’s concern is being able to fly the flag. “I don’t think anyone here would have a complaint if the DNR would work something out with the Estes Point flag group. There is no way anyone will agree to a three-year agreement and after that the flag comes down. Somewhere there has to be something we can do and we will live with it as long as we can see Old Glory.”
Zander and Dettmann said feedback from the meeting will be taken back to the Natural Resources and Conservation Commission meeting, Thursday, Oct. 14 in Des Moines.
Eglseder, whose grandfather John Fredrick Schrunk was one of the four original men who put the flag up in 1917, said it’s important the flag remains on the point.
“That flag represents our country. We basically fought for that flag and it’s a symbol all veterans look for. This is the state of Iowa versus the people of Iowa and it’s the people who vote. That flag’s not coming down.”