Three Confederate flags hung over the weekend in the vicinity of the Ray Lynn Barnes boat ramp near Crestview have been removed.
One flag was located 40 feet up a tree close to a U.S. Highway 90 Bridge over the shallow Shoal River boat launch, according to Okaloosa County Public Works Director Jason Autry. A county bucket truck was dispatched Monday afternoon to remove it. Two others were attached to trees on the south side of the bridge.
Unbeknownst to the county at the time it called out its truck, however, was that all the flags had been removed earlier Monday by the Florida Department of Transportation.
"There were three flags there, 30 to 40 feet up in the air, affixed with a device like you'd use to hang a flag on the side of your house," said FDOT spokesman Ian Satter. "We removed all three."
The removal had nothing to do with the controversial nature of the Confederate flag, which is seen by some as a racist symbol and others as a statement of Southern pride.
"You can't put anything on DOT right of way," Satter said.
Autry said his department was notified of the presence of the flags by a call made to the Board of County Commissioner Offices. The county maintains the boat launch and it is counted among its park properties.
The Confederate flag is not flown at any county park sites and, at any rate, the one hung in the Ray Lynn Barnes boat ramp over the weekend was not properly displayed as a flag, Autry said.
Its presence would be treated by county crews “no differently than toilet paper in a tree,” he said, as a nuisance to be removed.
A woman who lives near where the flags were hung said she noticed them “between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Friday morning.” A “very tall lift” was on property near the location where the flags were hung “doing tree work,” the woman said in a Facebook message.
The woman said she was fine with the two Confederate flags flown together, which she mistakenly believed to be on private property. “Just don’t want it on a public boat ramp,” her email said.
Okaloosa Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michele Nicholson said no county ordinance specifically bans the display of the Confederate flag.