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Created over millennia, destroyed in seconds

By Tom Watkins, CNN
October 18, 2013 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The boulder was one of thousands sculpted by dust and water
  • It has sat in the valley that is now a state park for millions of years
  • "This is not what you do at a natural scenic area," a parks spokesman says

(CNN) -- It took nature millions of years to create what it took Glenn Taylor just a few seconds to destroy.

Now, officials must decide whether toppling a boulder that had long perched gracefully atop a slender rock pedestal in southern Utah's Goblin Valley State Park was a crime that should be prosecuted.

Three Utah men say the delicate structure posed a threat to visitors, but park officials see it differently -- it's against the law to deface state parks, and now the men face the possibility of hard time.

It was not your garden-variety rock. The boulder was one of thousands of such rocks -- shaped like mushrooms and known to locals as goblins -- that dot a valley surrounded by a wall of eroded sandstone cliffs.

Last Friday the unique landscape lost one of the sculptures, which were created over the years by windblown dust and moving water.

That's when, serenaded by his pal David Hall's a cappella version of the rock song "Wiggle It, Just a Little Bit," Taylor wedged his back against another rock, put his legs against the delicate sculpture, and pushed. In a few seconds, the ancient tourist attraction tumbled to the ground.

Hall memorialized the act on video -- as well as the laughter and high fives that followed -- and then posted the minute-long act to Facebook.

"We have now modified Goblin Valley, a new Goblin Valley exists," Hall can be heard saying. "That's crazy that it was held up just by that little bit of dirt. Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way. So it's all about saving lives here at Goblin Valley. Saving lives. That's what we're all about."

A few days later, Hall told KUTV that the goblin had been unstable. "That wasn't going to last very long at all," he told the CNN affiliate. "One gust of wind and a family's dead."

Asked if he would do it again, he said, "Absolutely, absolutely."

"It didn't look like a stiff wind to me," said Jeff Rasmussen, the deputy director of Utah State Parks and Recreation, about the video. "Obviously, we're very concerned and upset that somebody would come and destroy this natural wonder that took millions of years to be formed," he told KUTV.

In his 22 years on the job, he had not heard of any goblins rolling off their pedestals.

"We thought we were doing a good deed," Taylor told the affiliate.

But the Emery County attorney or the Utah Attorney General may not agree, said Eugene Swalberg of Utah State Parks.

The men, who were leading a Boy Scout group, "are currently under criminal investigation," he told CNN. "It gives you a pit in your stomach. There seems to be a lot of happiness and joy with the individuals doing this, and it's not right. This is not what you do at a natural scenic area."

Taylor has expressed regrets. "I wish we would have been smart enough to go get a ranger 'cause it was wrong of us to be vigilantes, and I'm sorry I did that," he told CNN affiliate KSTU.

The video has garnered attention on social media, with more than half a million views on YouTube. "It comes down to this thing taking millions of years to form into what it looks/looked like in the video & these jackballs ruined it in less than a minute for no reason at all except to just f*** around," said Celtic505.

"This video kinda sums up the human race," said Drc0ffee. "At the end of the day we all are just like these idiots. Just a bunch of idiots pushing meaningless boulders around for a 'good' reason or just for s**** and jiggles."

"The same type that think it's cool to spray paint the rocks and cliff faces in our parks," said hog1775. "Should have a open season on these jack asses. No bag limit."

But the boulder busters got support, too. "I think it really could be a safety hazard," said Derryl Skinner.

And it attracted indifference. "It's a rock," said Alex Milburn. "Why is everyone freaking out?"

CNN's Drew Iden contributed to this report

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