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Rainbow Family Leaving Utah

Rainbow Family Leaving Utah

Posted - Jul. 6, 2003 at 9:45 p.m.



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John Hollenhorst ReportingNine thousand Rainbows, that's the final, official estimate for the number of hippies, peace lovers and counter-culture radicals who camped out in the High Uintas last week.

Now, the Rainbow Family is leaving. But how much of a mark will they leave on the land? Environmentalists, forest rangers and even sheep ranchers have been nervous about damage to the area.

Short-term effects are clearly present and obvious. It's likely to be awhile before anyone can fully assess the long-term results.

They're packing up, grabbing some last-minute hugs and they're moving out, taking home memories of a most unusual week deep in the woods.

“Gumby"/Rainbow Family: "I think it's a lot of soul-searching. Huh, hyuk. Good place to heal the soul."

On Friday there were at least 2,000 cars, maybe 3,000, and roughly 9,000 people. Now at least half are gone; many carrying bags of trash.

Kathryn Lepone/Olympia, Wash.: "We walked around and made sure that all the little pieces of paper, anything that didn't belong there, was picked up. We went into other camps and cleaned them up, made sure that all the compost was buried."

At previous Rainbow Gatherings in other national forests officials say the cleanup has been pretty good. But so many cars, and so much foot traffic, has trampled vegetation and left dusty or muddy places that could become erosion problems. The Forest Service hopes to negotiate a plan for Rainbows to do re-seeding and rehabilitation, and to pay for it.

Malcolm Jowers/Incident Commander, US Forest Service: "Past gatherings have fallen somewhat short in regard to total rehab."

"Gumby"/Rainbow Family: "They're going to go through, brush out all the trails that have been stamped down, clean up all the trash, fill in all the holes, just refurnish the land."

Malcolm Jowers/Incident Commander, US Forest Service: "It remains to be seen if the Rainbow Family, or the individuals assembling, are going to take care of that and square that away."

The Rainbows have kept law enforcement busy the last couple of weeks. There have been about 18 arrests, more than 200 tickets and citations and several hundred more warnings issued.

Malcolm Jowers/Incident Commander, US Forest Service: "We've seen typical behavior that we would have expected...we still remain concerned about the amount of illegal drug use."

Taxpayers will have to pick up the tab, at least a half-million dollars, for the federal effort to control the event.

But on the plus side, it looks like a bonanza for towing companies. A lot of Rainbow vehicles are having trouble getting out of the woods.

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