Grand County commissioners release statement on Rainbow Gathering

A makeshift stage the Rainbow Family set up during their 2006 Gathering in Routt County. Today, the Grand County Board of County Commissioners sent a statement saying, it “will not make allowances for an unpermitted event on public land by the USFS.”
Sandra Salvas/Courtesy Photo

The Grand County Board of County Commissioners sent a statement to the Sky-Hi News upon request Wednesday, April 13, that says the Board “has been made aware by the U.S. Forest Service that the 2022 Rainbow Family Gathering could occur in Grand County;” that it will “not make allowances for an unpermitted event on public land by the USFS;” and that it “does not support the Gathering.”

In a phone call regarding the statement, District 2 Commissioner Merrit Linke said he had talked to some of the Forest Service “high-ups” and that “they don’t feel there is much support to oppose the gathering.” He said that’s because the Rainbows could “go somewhere else, to a more remote area, that would have less back-up than Grand County does.”

“Kind of the consensus unofficially is that they’re coming and we can do the best we can to prepare, even though we won’t know if they will come until the last minute,” Linke added. “But they’re a very unstructured group with no legal status or organized structure. They’re not an official church group, and they don’t have any true leadership, so preparing in advance would be hard to do.”

When asked what the county will do to prepare should they learn definitively that the Rainbows are coming, Linke said, “A lot it from the county side has to do with trying to get extra personnel and costs covered. The Rainbows are bad about paying bills like EMS response or hospitalization. We’ll also need additional law enforcement services, which is money out of Grand County tax payers’ pockets. So we’re trying to make sure the Forest Service will help us with some federal funding. And, really, in terms of managing it, it’s making sure we can call on our neighboring counties. There are lots of mutual aid agreements with sheriffs and municipal departments across the state, so that seems to be our best bet.”

Word circulating around the state is that the Rainbow Family is coming to Grand County this summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first gathering, which took place at Strawberry Lake. Historically, the Family has waited until mid-June to send a “scouting party” to potential gathering sites. Linke said they can’t legally hold a gathering on Strawberry Lake anymore, because it is in a National Recreation Area, which forbids such gatherings.

The statement also said, “We hear and share our community’s concern about the potential for this highly concentrated and localized event on USFS lands. At the scale discussed by the USFS – if the Gathering takes place here – it could bring additional wildfire risk to our community due to prolonged drought and the magnitude of fuels from beetle killed trees, grasses and undergrowth. Grand County has been significantly impacted by recent wildfires that burned more than 225,000 acres of our land, destroyed nearly 400 homes, and burned all four watershed basins. These burn areas are still in the early phases of recovery, with anticipated additional flood-after-fire threats this summer.”

Updates will follow as the BOCC learn more from the Forest Service, the statement said.

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