Town of Gypsum requests removal of Pride flag from Gypsum Recreation Center
Mountain Pride pushes back with upcoming event to promote support, advocacy and visibility following its removal
In March, Mountain Recreation’s decision to fly Pride flags year-round at its three Eagle County facilities was initially met with some backlash, followed by a groundswell of support from local residents, nonprofits and community groups.
The town of Gypsum requested this week that the Pride flag be removed from the Gypsum Rec Center.
According to Taylor Slaugh, the town of Gypsum’s communications and marketing manager, the flag being put up in the first place was against the direction of the Gypsum Town Council when Mountain Recreation approached town staff about the move to put the flag up. Town staff then went to the Town Council for policy direction in February.
“Initially, Mountain Rec came to the town and the council to see if they could put up the flag as part of their programming,” Slaugh said in an interview with the Vail Daily on Thursday, adding that because Mountain Recreation doesn’t own the building it makes these requests for “any signage they put up there.”
“The council’s response was that because it was a government building, and it was paid for with taxpayer dollars, it should be devoid of any symbols of any religious or political of any kind so thank you, but no, we’d rather you not put it up,” Slaugh said.
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Eddie Campos, the rec district’s marketing and communication manager, confirmed to the Vail Daily that the flag had been removed because “we made a mistake in not getting the proper approval from the town of Gypsum (who owns the Gypsum Rec Center) to put the pride flag in the lobby.”
Because the rec district owns both Edwards Fieldhouse and Eagle Pool & Ice Rink, the pride flags will remain up at the two facilities, according to Campos.
Slaugh said that the town was made aware the flag had been hung against the council’s direction “when it was on the front page of the Vail Daily,” which was back in March 2022. When asked why the flag was being taken down now, seven months later, Slaugh said that it’s taken this long for the conversations between the town and district to occur, but that the “decision by the council has never changed.”
In the months since, Slaugh said there have been “citizen complaints and such, both to Mountain Rec board and the council, which made it clear that symbols such as this — which we originally said the building should be devoid of — create division and not unity, and this building is welcome to absolutely everybody and that’s what we want it to continue to be.”
“It’s a public building that’s open to everybody, always has been, always will be,” Slaugh said.
In a post on Facebook by Mountain Pride, a local LGBTQ advocacy and education nonprofit, a statement said that the organization was “disheartened by the removal of the pride flag in the Mountain Recreation facility in Gypsum.”
“As a facility that largely supports children and families, Mountain Recreation provides lifesaving visibility and support to the most vulnerable members of our community, LGBTQ+ youth,” reads the statement. “By seeing the Pride flag in the Mountain Recreation facility and other places in our community, youth and adults alike are affirmed in their diverse and unique identities. This affirmation can truly save lives.”
Madison Partridge, the organization’s executive director, said that this is not the first time this conversation — as it relates to Mountain Recreation, the town of Gypsum, or even pride flags — has been had.
“When the conversations resurfaced again, Mountain Recreation leadership reached out to Mountain Pride right away to engage in dialogue. They made it a priority to reach out to the community members and community organizations that would be impacted by this decision,” Partridge said.
Partridge added that with this news, the initial reaction was hurt.
“Feeling safe in our community should not be political and should be a priority for our elected officials. Having a rainbow flag isn’t pushing your beliefs on someone. It’s a symbol for, ‘You are welcome here and we support you,’” she said. “Bans on LGBTQIA+ affirming flags and attempts to ban them are harmful messages that youth and adults alike recognize as hurtful discrimination when the message should be that we include, protect and value the most vulnerable among us. Studies show that spaces perceived to be affirming can save the lives of young LGBTQIA+ people, who are at a higher risk of bullying and self-harm.”
Mountain Rec’s decision to put up the flags in its facilities earlier this year was driven by the organization’s greater diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
“For decades, the District has served the community by providing recreational opportunities that bring our community together. Without a question we will do everything in our power to ensure every person has an opportunity for a healthy and active lifestyle,” wrote Liz Jones, the former Mountain Rec board president, in an emailed statement to the Vail Daily at the time. “By displaying the flag, we are stating our promise to provide an environment that is safe, welcome and inclusive of everyone.”
Partridge acknowledged the district’s efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion, adding that it will continue to “walk alongside” the organization, and others in the community “on their journey to make their space and our community a more equitable place for all through dialogue, training, partnership and collaboration.”
While the flag may have been taken down, Mountain Pride is going to continue to fight for its presence at the Gypsum center.
“As the only LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization in our community, we knew that we could not sit back and watch this unfold; we had to stand up for and with our community. All of our programs are driven by and for the LGBTQIA+ community, so we wanted to offer a space for not only individual advocacy, but to come together as a collective and make our voices heard,” Partridge said.
“We recognize the impact this has on Mountain Recreation’s staff, who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies, and for our LGBTQIA+ members who live in Gypsum and frequent the facility,” she added.
It’s for this reason that the organization is hosting a “facilitated dialogue about ongoing support, visibility and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community” at the Gypsum Rec Center on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 5:30 p.m. The event will include dinner as well as Spanish interpretation. The organization is inviting all members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies to join in the discussion.
Partridge also said that the organization was in the process of inviting Gypsum town leadership and residents to this event.
“Our hope is that positive, impactful and actionable change will come from this discussion. As well as letting our community know that they have support systems here,” Partridge said.
This is not the first time controversy has arisen around pride flags in Eagle County, with similar discussions taking place in Avon around Pride month in 2021.
“We know that this issue is not limited to Mountain Recreation or the town of Gypsum. That is why advocacy and activism is a huge part of our continued work and one of our four strategic program areas,” Partridge said, adding that the organization will continue work with the community as well as local and state representatives to “effect positive change” and create “safer spaces in our communities.”
And as pride flags continue to spark controversy in Eagle County, Partridge is hopeful for the future.
“I would be lying if I said there was not frustration that we are continuing to fight for visibility in our community, particularly as it relates to pride flags but we know that this fight is worthwhile,” Partridge said. “I hope this is the last time we have to have this dialogue so that we can continue to focus our efforts and time on community building, education and resources to continue meeting the needs of all our community members.”
If you are an LGBTQIA+ community member or ally needing support in navigating, please reach out to Mountain Pride at 970-510-0276 or email Partridge at email@example.com.