Better Than Expected Clean-up from Rainbow Family

Better Than Expected Clean-up from Rainbow Family

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Rainbow Family apparently knows how to clean house.

The official permit period for the group's annual counterculture gathering -- held this year in the Uinta mountains -- expired Monday and early reports give the group good marks for covering its tracks.

The gathering of free-spirits from all walks of life drew about 9,000 people to the north slope of the Uinta mountains about 70 miles east of Salt Lake City in early July. Critics worried the large gathering would have harmed the land and wildlife.

The group's permit included several pages requiring them to clean up the site to standards set by the U.S. Forest Service.

"My personal opinion is (the result is) better than I expected," said Larry Johnson, an environmental coordinator for the Forest Service in Evanston, Wyo.

The biggest concerns centered around streams and creeks that crisscross through the Little West Fork Black's Fork area where the group gathered. That area is a closed habitat for the Colorado cutthroat trout, which is listed as a sensitive species.

Johnson talked to Rainbow Family members in advance and spelled out the distances that toilets, camps and kitchens needed to be from creeks and streams. Family members made signs explaining the rules and the sensitivity of the area to fish.

Johnson had not talked to the fisheries biologist assigned to the gathering by the Forest Service, but said he thought any damage to the stream won't affect the fish.

"You can't have that many people without some effects. But I don't think those are going to have an affect on the cutthroat," he said. "The biggest concern would be sediment coming off the meadow" where paths were worn or ground was trampled, he said.

"You can never totally prevent damage from those kinds of things, but I think what they did really does mitigate some of that."

In addition to removing garbage and filling and covering trench toilets and fire pits, group members who stayed for the clean-up tried to break up paths that were worn and patches of land that were trampled to bare ground.

"There's some sore spots that'll take some time, when you get compactions out in the meadow like that there will be effects from it for probably another year or two," Johnson said.

The Forest Service hasn't completed its final inspection, nor has it formally notified the Rainbows whether they met the permit's requirements, Johnson said. That decision could come within about a month, and Johnson anticipates members may be called back this fall to seed barren spots.

On Wednesday, Summit County Health Department officials visited the site and said they were impressed with the cleanup, spokeswoman Katie Mullaly said Thursday.

"They've totally cleaned up. You wouldn't know anyone was there with the exception of a few foot paths in the meadows," she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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