BEND, OR -- Last week's Water Lantern Festival was billed as "fun, happiness, hope and great memories." But the aftermath was not cherished by parks officials and river visitors. On its Instagram page, the group Loot the Deschutes documented piles of leftover lantern bases and abandoned lights floating in the water (pictured) and piled up on the banks.
The Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) now says it will reject future proposals for the Water Lantern Festival. The district sent the following statement to KBND News:
BPRD is disappointed that the organizer’s plan to confine the lanterns to a specific area was not successful. We also appreciate the community members’ efforts over the weekend to remove debris that was found in the river.
BPRD has notified organizers that any future event proposals for the Water Lantern Festival will not be approved. This is due to the issues that arose with containing the lanterns during the event, as well as the lack of communication, lack of remorse and lack of clean-up efforts. The inaction doesn’t alignment with our community’s values.
The lantern festival had a rental reservation for their event at Riverbend Park. They went through the same process as all public event organizers – completing a request form, submitting a logistics plan, site map, and appropriate insurance. They also held their pre-event meeting with a BPRD staff person to review all details.
The lanterns event was a new concept for our community. When the proposal was submitted, we contacted other communities where it had occurred and they didn’t have issues that raised concerns. We approved the event based on our criteria – we always conduct this evaluation for event requests. The lanterns weren’t a fire concern and the plan was to contain them within 150 feet of the launch area.
BPRD staff worked throughout the weekend directly with organizers to strongly encourage them to work with Loot the Deschutes and other locals on clean-up efforts. Thanks to all involved in trying to make a difference, especially on the heels of the successful river clean-up event a couple weeks ago.