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Group responsible for memorial bench says it was a mistake to not ask permission first

Lawmakers are also voicing their opinions on the issue

Battle Over Bench Continues

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - A spokesman for the group behind a tribute bench to honor a slain soldier and his wife said it was a mistake to not get official permission ahead of acting.

Philip Glorioso said the group came up with the idea before the Manitou Incline became legal earlier this year.

"At that time, there really wasn't any kind of government control over the Incline," said Glorioso. "It was still kind of a free-for-all, technically illegal activity to climb it."

That all changed February 1st with the legalization of the Incline. The process took years and acts of Congress. The U.S. Forest Service owns the land but the park is maintained by the city of Colorado Springs.

The bench was carried up the Incline and assembled over the first weekend of April by Goruck, a physical strength and team building group from Fort Carson. It took 40 people close to 5 hours to carry the 1,000 pound tribute up the incline.

"This is something we did in an effort to put our blood and tears into a tribute for our friend," said Glorioso.

On Thursday, the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board was advised of the city's plan to remove the bench.

"I'm concerned that it's insensitive and against common sense," said Dan Lewis, a Parks board member.

Karen Palus, director of the department, told the board that the removal of the bench is a joint decision between the city and the U.S. Forest Service.

Palus said those who assembled the bench did it without getting permits.

"It's unfortunate that they did this without getting permission first," said Palus.  

Lawmakers are also voicing their opinions.

"Congressman Lamborn sympathizes with those who wish to honor the slain family with a bench at the top of the Manitou Incline," said Catherine Martines Mortensen, Lamborn's communications director, said in an email. "The Congressman is calling on both the city and the Forest Service to show flexibility to accommodate this sincere and heartfelt effort to memorialize those who have served our country."

Senator Bennet's office also sent a statement.

"Senator Bennet is aware of this situation and hopes it can be resolved," it reads. "Our office has contacted the groups involved to determine if we can offer assistance to help find a solution that respectfully honors David and Whitney, while also respecting U.S. Forest Service policy and the law."

The bench honors David and Whitney Dunlap. The Fort Carson soldier and his pregnant wife were killed in their home in January during a break-in. David Dunlap was a staff sergeant and helicopter mechanic for Fort Carson's combat aviation brigade. His wife was pregnant at the time of the murder.

Ted Smith, a friend of the Dunlaps who was part of the bench-building group, said they talked with Friends of the Incline about the project and believed they had the go ahead but Friends does not have authority over the land.

"Unfortunately, that's a mistake that we have to be culpable for," said Glorioso.

Since our first story aired Thursday, there's been an international push to reverse the decision. An online petition has drawn support from across the nation and as far away as England.

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