JOHN DAY, OR -- The Rainbow Family Gathering in Grant county ended more than a week ago, but some members - and problems - remain. Malheur National Forest Deputy Supervisor Ryan Nehl says there were more than 13,000 people at the event, during its peak. "I can say that 911 dispatch has been very active since the family has arrived. Grant County is about 7,200 citizens; add 13,000 to that and you’re going to have the problems that come with that influx of people."
The loosely organized group’s website
says they support “community-building, non-violence and alternative lifestyles.” But, Nehl says not all at the event lived up to that description. "Not every one of them is peaceful, peace loving. There is a lot of antagonism in the group, from the way they treat Forest Service personnel, specifically law enforcement officers. They were outright rude and harassing law enforcement during the event. As far as the trash, there is quite a bit of trash generated at the event; there are loose dogs still running around."
Nehl tells KBND News, "Damage that they’re doing in that small of a space; it really has a big impact. I’ve seen it from the air. From a helicopter you can see bare dirt in a lot of areas that were nice green meadows. They’ve worn paths through there. Just the amount of human waste on the site is a concern to us, and certainly the potential for groundwater contamination is of grave concern." Now, with just a few hundred people left, the clean-up effort is underway. "What we developed were criteria for rehabilitation and repairing the site to its original condition. Some volunteers from Rainbow Family started that, but they haven’t been very successful with achieving the guidelines for repair and rehabilitation."
The Rainbow Family holds its annual gathering in a different National Forest, each year. In 1997, they met in the Ochocos, outside of Prineville.