Outrage Erupts After American Flag is Banned from Alaska National Park

By: Georgia | Last updated: Jun 05, 2024

The stunning Denali National Park became a battleground over an American flag on a construction site. 

The park’s superintendent reportedly said the flag “distracts from the experience,” sparking widespread outrage. This unexpected move stirred not only local dissent but also caught the attention of higher-ups.

A Senator Steps In

Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan was quick to respond with a fiery letter to the National Park Service Director. 

Portrait of Senator Dan Sullivan smiling, positioned in front of the American and Alaskan state flags

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dated May 24, Sullivan demanded an investigation into why a 3 x 5 American flag was removed from a construction vehicle, calling the action “absurd and defies all logic.”


Memorial Day Controversy

As Memorial Day approached, the timing of the flag’s removal couldn’t have been more contentious. 

A military band in uniform performing at a memorial, decorated with large American flags, with dignitaries in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Senator Sullivan highlighted the irony of an American flag being taken down in a national park funded by American taxpayers just before a patriotic holiday.

Reports from the Construction Crew

Reports from the Alaska Watchman revealed a contractor’s frustration. 

Panoramic view of a frozen landscape in Denali National Park, showing vast snowy fields and distant mountain ranges under a clear blue sky

Source: Denali National Park and Preserve/Facebook

Allegedly, a park official had directly ordered the removal of the flag, sparking questions and further controversy among the community and workers alike.

US Flag Removed Due to Noise Complaint

The construction company (Federal Highway Administration) said that workers removed the flag after a visitor complained about road noise.

The US flag with the stars and stripes flying in the wind.

Cristina Glebova/Unsplash

The complaint by the visitor claimed that a bridge worker’s flag on their vehicle was making too much noise when traveling on the Park Road.

Workers Want To Create a Low Profile

When going about their work, workers’ main goal is to try to go unnoticed by visitors so that they can enjoy the local scenery without being distracted by any ongoing work.

Workers digging at an Alaska national park. They are holding spades and have wheelbarrows.


This ultimately led to the decision for the flag to be removed, as well as to try not to disturb the wildlife that use the area as their local natural habitat.


The Flag Had Been Flying for Weeks

According to the construction crew, the flag had been flying on the trucks for weeks and had never warranted any sort of complaints from visitors or anyone else working at the park.

US flag flying in the wind.

Ben Mater

They did note that the complaint only happened when tour buses started coming through the area and that the removal only happened as a result of one complaint.


The Park Employee Has Been Dealt With

The park employee spoke to the FHWA staff about the flag flapping incident without going through the proper communication channels, this has created issues for the park and is why there has been so much controversy regarding the incident.

A close-up image of the US flag on the stars.

Lucas Sankey/Unsplash

Measures have now been taken to ensure that all park employees know the proper communication procedures and channels so that should a similar situation arise, it doesn’t get out of hand.


Senator Sullivan's Strong Words

In his letter, Sullivan didn’t hold back, writing: “It is absurd and defies all logic that a federal contractor…is prohibited from flying the American flag.” 

Portrait of Dan Sullivan standing in front of a painting of Alaskan wilderness, with the American flag on his left

Source: SenDanSullivan/X

His strong statement reflected the shock and disapproval of many.


No Laws Prohibit Flying the American Flag

Within his statement, Sullivan also pointed out that there are no laws or regulations that would prevent the contractors or anyone else in the US from flying the US flag.

The US flag on a flagpole.

Justin Cron/Unsplash

This has led to even more confusion and outrage from the general public, who don’t understand how this has happened, why it has happened, or what the next steps will be going forward.


National Parks Are for the Enjoyment of American Citizens

As national parks are for the enjoyment of American citizens, according to Sullivan, it only makes sense for the US flag to be able to fly there.

A view of the mountains in an Alaska national park.

Michael Kirsh/Unsplash

When these flags are removed, it raises many questions and can sometimes feel like an infringement on American rights.


The Flag Usually Flies Here

Despite the incident at the construction site, the American flag continues to be displayed at various other locations within the park, including several stations and the visitor’s center. 

A weathered American flag stands among winter-browned grasses with a backdrop of a snowy field and a small church, under a bright sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This has led to confusion and questions about the consistency of policies regarding flag displays across the park.


Demands for Action

Senator Sullivan urged the National Park Service to not only investigate but also to update their policies to prevent such incidents in the future.

Senator Dan Sullivan stands speaking in front of a group of seated adults at a community event, wearing a red and blue plaid shirt

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He called for “increased training and clearer guidelines” to ensure the flag could freely fly in national parks.


Superintendent at the Center of the Storm

Brooke Merrell, the superintendent, faced harsh criticism following the incident. 

A panoramic view of Denali mountain towering over colorful autumn tundra with deep reds and browns under a clear blue sky

Source: Denali National Park and Preserve/Facebook

Accusations flew on social media, with some labeling her actions as “anti-American” and even calling her a “communist.”


Social Media Backlash Turns Ugly

The online backlash escalated quickly, with some comments on social media wishing harm upon Merrell. 

An American flag waving proudly on a clear day, attached to a vertical pole with a slightly tattered end

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This disturbing turn of events highlighted the intense emotions tied to the issue.


Hateful Comments Are Irresponsible

Due to the hateful comments, which were directed mostly towards the Superintendent, the park has labeled them irresponsible.

A heart sign that says, "Spread love NOT hate."


This is because there is no knowing what hateful comments might do to someone and how they might affect them.


Park Officials Claim This Is a False Incident

With the social media backlash starting to get ugly, park officials took to Facebook to release a statement. In it, they claimed that the situation was entirely false.

A view of some mountains at Alaska national park

Brianna Marble/Unsplash

They claimed that the NPS doesn’t administer the bridge project contract and doesn’t have the right to enforce terms or policies toward contractors or workers on this project.


The Statement Fails To Answer Some Key Questions

While the statement might be enough for some, others claim that it doesn’t answer some key questions and completely discredits the construction worker’s own experience.

An old US flag.

Samuel Branch/Unsplash

It also tries to move away from the issue of moving the truck flags by pointing out that other US flags are flying all over the park and have not been removed.


Political Tensions Simmer

The flag’s removal was not just a local issue but also stoked political fires. 

A moose crossing a rural road in front of a stopped SUV, showcasing wildlife interaction with vehicles in a forested area of Alaska

Source: Denali National Park and Preserve/Facebook

The contractor implicated “liberals in charge” as part of the problem, suggesting a deeper political divide affecting park management.


Patriotic Response

In a display of defiance, a “patriotic convoy with flags” was organized from a Fairbanks Walmart to the park. 

An American flag affixed to the back of a black pickup truck with a cargo rack, driving on a suburban road lined with autumn trees

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The event highlighted the strong feelings of locals and their support for the American flag in their community.


The Park's Mistake Was Staying Quiet

Those involved in this convoy have clarified that the park’s biggest mistake was staying quiet. Had they released a statement sooner, this action may not have had to be taken.

A US flag on a flagpole.

Paul Weaver/Unsplash

They felt the need to take action to make it clear that they were not okay with the removal of the US flag, hoping that this would encourage the park to revoke the decision.


Workers Can Use the US Flag in Some Areas

As park officials do not have control over the construction area, the company overseeing the construction has allowed workers to fly the flags on the backs of their trucks.

The US flag flying against a white background.

Donovan Reeves/Unsplash

However, once they leave the construction area and drive back through the park, these flags need to be removed to not upset any visitors.


Instances of the US Flag Being Removed

The situation in Alaska isn’t a unique one, as there have been other instances of places and people being asked to remove the US flag.

US flags hanging outside a building.

Caleb Fisher/Unsplash

In one instance, FDNY firefighters were asked to remove a US flag that was a 9/11 tribute to the firefighters who had lost their lives. This flag had a red line through the center, something that reportedly went against guidelines and was why the crew was asked to take it down.


Ongoing Construction and Community Watch

While the controversy unfolds, construction at Pretty Rocks Landslide continues with a completion date set for 2026. 

A tranquil scene of a sunset casting a soft glow over a river winding through a dark, rugged valley in Alaska

Source: Denali National Park and Preserve/Facebook

The community remains vigilant, keeping an eye on both the construction progress and the policies affecting their national treasure.