Amassing in the forest, Rainbow Family tries to allay fears during Craig meet and greet
On Wednesday night, June 22, a handful of people from Rainbow Family of Living Light met Craig locals at Craig City Park to discuss concerns about the Rainbow Gathering in Adams Park.
The Rainbow Gathering was announced two weeks ago as the non-organizational group is celebrating its the 50th anniversary in a remote area of Routt County in Adams Park north of Hayden. The group had its first gathering in Grand County in 1972, which is why they chose to return to Colorado this year for the anniversary.
There were about 60 people who attended the meet and greet on Wednesday, which was set up by the Rainbows in an attempt to alleviate fears and apprehension about the gathering and its effects on the local community and public lands.
Rainbow Family members have already started to move into the camp north of Hayden, with volunteers building shared water lines and latrines. The gathering is on public land designated for dispersed camping, but it is also a favored habitat for wildlife.
The U.S. Forest Service has estimated there could be up to 10,000 gatherers for the celebration roughly set for July 1-7. However, Rainbow representatives on Wednesday said a more realistic estimate would be about 5,000 people.
There were two full hours of conversation between locals and Rainbows where many concerns in the community were addressed. Moffat County Proud, a community Facebook page, recorded over an hour of the discussion with a live stream.
Between 18-20 Rainbow people came to the park to represent the group, and they fielded questions about the purpose of the event and the conduct of the Rainbow Family.
“Why we gather is because we really believe in peace on earth, and how are we going to have peace on earth if we don’t learn to live together and love one another? That’s what we’re about.” said Feather, a Rainbow group representative.
The Rainbows were adamant that they are a leaderless group. They said no individuals among the group can speak for the group as a whole. Rather, all of the members are “self-governed.” The representatives of the Rainbow Gathering said they attended the meet and greet to voice their individual views on the gathering and practices.
Initially, locals were vocal about the Rainbow’s lack of leadership and asked for someone who could be held accountable for the group’s actions. However, the conversation was able to move past that and onto other issues.
Locals had a laundry list of concerns including the lack of special-use permit for the gathering, Rainbow members panhandling in town and dogs being off leash in an area with wildlife. Other concerns focused on sanitation at the camp, safety, trash disposal and long-term implications of such a large gathering on a special-interest area.
Questions were fielded around the circle in a popcorn method, with different Rainbows Family members addressing them as they came up.
While Craig locals and the Rainbows did not see eye to eye on all issues, many of the topics were thoroughly covered.
In terms of the special-use permit, Rainbows said because there is no individual leader who has authority over the group, there is no one to sign such a permit. The group said they have tried to comply with the Forest Service guidelines, which allow for an operations plan to be submitted in lieu of a permit, but that the Forest Service has not accepted a proposed operational plan.
One representative from the group said that executing a special-use permit does nothing to assure proper processes are in place to deal with safety, sanitation and protection of the land and natural resources.
Several Rainbows echoed those comments, saying the gathering has been navigating these issues for five decades, and they do have processes in place. The group strongly advocated for the measures they take in the selection, setup and cleanup of their gathering sites.
The Rainbows said that they have their own medical groups on site with licensed EMTs, registered nurses and doctors. The medical group tries to treat everyone on site, though issues do arise where someone needs to be taken to a hospital.
The Rainbows added that their medical group was meeting with local public health departments on Wednesday to discuss plans and see how they can work together.
Because the gathering is in Routt County, Moffat County Public Health is not the lead public health agency, but is serving in a support role.
Public Health Director Kari Ladrow later confirmed that Moffat County Public Health is working with Routt County Public Health to provide support efforts. The two entities are meeting with Rainbow representatives this week to continue ongoing conversations about health and safety.
The group said that everyone at the gathering is encouraged to use best practices across the board, everything from hand washing to keeping dogs on leash.
There was an informational pamphlet passed around at the meet and greet that listed responsibilities of each of the gatherers to provide safety for themselves and protection for the natural resources.
The pamphlet states there shouldn’t be any camping within 100 feet of water sources, and all latrines, compost pits and gray water pits should be dug 300 feet away from any water source. The pamphlet also outlines processes for disposal of trash in the camp, and where and how to dig a latrine.
Rainbow representatives strongly advocated for respectful personal conduct at the gathering, including the use of alcohol being strongly discouraged. Family members emphasized that their intention is to peacefully exist with local community members and with the environment at their camp.
According to a Rainbow representative, there will be another similar meeting in Steamboat at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Correction: This story has been updated to say the meeting at the public library in Steamboat Springs will be on Saturday, June 25.
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