PRINEVILLE, OR -- The Rainbow Family is again moving through Central Oregon. The group hosts its annual five-day regional gathering in the Ochoco National Forest, starting Wednesday. Two years ago, about 12,000 members gathered in the Malheur National Forest; many traveled through Crook County to get to the national gathering. Last year's regional gathering was held off Highway 22, near Santiam Pass.
While the event isn't actually in Crook County, Prineville is the closes city to this year's event. Officials say past Rainbow Family events brought an increase in vehicle traffic, hitchhiking or loitering, petty crime and panhandling. The group has no official leader and is said to be committed to principles of non-violence, communal living and community building.
Patrick Lair, with the Ochoco National Forest, doesn't think things will get out of hand, but the Forest Service is working with others to mitigate concerns, "It's basic courtesy to other government agencies, we let the hospital know, we let the Chamber of Commerce know, 'Hey, there's a potential for some more people coming through town, for you to see some different activities here that you might want to know about'." He tells KBND News, "Our role is really trying to manage the environmental impacts of a group gathering."
Lair says, any time there's a large group of people camped somewhere, even on public land, there's bound to be some impacts, "We developed an operating plan, and we're managing things like parking, and campfires, and water, and trash, and human waste, and all those things." To hold a large gathering in the National Forest, a permit is required for more than 75 people. Lair says no one from the Rainbow Family will actually come get a permit.