June 22, 2022 |

Rainbow Gatherings, like the one coming together on the Routt National Forest north of Hayden, Colorado, are “unlawful” events that can be managed to some degree, but not prevented or shut down. This was the message from U.S. Forest Service Officials during a virtual online meeting last night.

Pictured above: A photograph of the scene Monday in the Adams Park of the Routt National Forest area shows that the first of the Rainbows have arrived. Photo courtesy Lenny Layman, Carbon County Emergency Manager.

That’s Russ Bacon, the supervisor of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests. Bacon said his agency has requested but has not received a special use permit for this year’s gathering. The Rainbow Family, as they call themselves, has never applied for a permit in their half-century of gathering on national forests in July. This year will be no different.

Despite the elaborate organizational capacity the group flexes for staging and advertising their events, as well as for building their elaborate camps with handcrafted infrastructure for public kitchens, water systems, children’s playgrounds and latrines, group members say they have no leaders who can speak for the group.

Despite their claims of being a non-group, Rainbow representatives have been appearing at public meetings in Steamboat and Craig to speak on behalf of the Family and to answer questions from the public, much like USFS representatives do.

Despite the Rainbows “unlawful” status, the Forest Service also works cooperatively with them on a “design criteria plan” for each year’s gathering. The plan includes ingress and egress to the site for emergency services, protection of resources, as well as health and safety issues of latrine areas.

Forest Service officials, like Public Information Specialist Hillary Markin, were complimentary of the Rainbows for mitigating the gathering sites once an even has concluded. Markin used a series of before and after pictures to show the intensive cleanup efforts of designated Rainbow clean-up crews

Participants to this year’s 50th anniversary gathering began showing up within hours after location was announced on June 14th. Ground zero is Adams Park, an area high in natural resource values located in the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District.

Ken Pearson, the Law Enforcement Commander for the incident, said about 1,000 people are on site. The gathering doesn’t begin until July 1st. Given the number of early arrivals, Pearson said the event could draw more than 10,000 revelers.

Pearson said he will have a law enforcement team of about 45 uniformed officers under his command along with a small administrative staff. He is making arrangements with county sheriff departments, local police and Colorado State Patrol for backup if needed.

Many people in the Steamboat area have bitter memories of the Rainbow gathering at Big Red Park in 2006. The Forest Supervisor acknowledged that and expressed regret that the Rainbows had chosen the Routt for their 50th annual gathering, especially given its potential to draw large numbers to a pristine and sensitive area.

When asked why the Forest Service doesn’t just shut down the event if it considers the gathering unlawful, Bacon said courts have not ruled favorably for the Forest Service in the past.

So the Forest Service is working mitigate damage to the forest and working local communities to address the social impacts, as well. Bigfoot 99 will continue to follow this story.

For more information visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/rainbowgathering or contact the Public Information Line at 970-364-2201 or email SM.FS.RainbowIMT@usda.gov.

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