Bayfield County Discusses Rainbow Family Gathering with Community

Brandon Weathers
Updated: July 01, 2019 04:20 PM

Bayfield County Sheriff's Office held a community meeting Thursday where some voiced concerns and others voiced support for the Rainbow Family Gathering which is to take place at Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

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The gathering is expected to bring between 4,000 and 10,000 people to the Forest. It will mainly take place the first 7 days of July, centered on Independence Day. Rainbow Family participant Aaron Olson said, "On the 4th of July from daybreak until about noon, a lot of people observe a moment of silence, and just kind of think about peace. And in that respect, that's kind of the center point of our gathering."

However, some have already begun to gather. Bayfield County Sheriff Paul Susienka said that they have had about 500 people come to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest over the past week, and that there have not been any serious issues so far. Sheriff Susienka said their goal is for people to be able to come and enjoy themselves with minimum disruption to the day-to-day lives of residents.

Some members of the community see this as unrealistic. A lot of the concerns voiced at the meeting had to do with the lack of a process involved with the gathering, such as the short notice to residents and the lack of permits. Enforcing permits is tricky because the gathering isn't an official event put on by an organization.

The Rainbow Family insists that they will pick up after themselves and regard the land with respect. They said that they will dispose of their waste with slit trenches and cover the trenches with lime and ash. They also said they would take their garbage and recycling out of the Park and to proper waste facilities.

Rainbow Family members acknowledged that there will be some economic impact on local stores, but they plan to outsource main supply produce from major cities.

Traffic flow was a common concern, particularly because of the number of roads that are going to be closed in the area for repairs due to last summer's storms. The Forest Service said traffic will flow in on County Road A. There will be one-side parking along the county roads with no parking in the residential area along Scenic Drive.

Heather Miller lives in Delta, and her main concern is the safety of her children. She said, "Our property butts up right against the property of the Chequamegon National Forrest. I'm a concerned mother more-so, I have three kids who like to play outside."

Todd Carlson lives in Iron River, and he said he's been surprised to see how many members of the community have been welcoming of the gathering. "We've gone out there and looked around and found pretty nice folks, and so we're kind of just enjoying the idea of, 'It's a once in a lifetime' kind of thing," he said.

Sheriff Susienka and several residents said the gathering is happening, and now people can only do their part to see that it goes smoothly.


Brandon Weathers

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