NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Thousands of people from all over the country are gathering in the Carson National Forest in Taos County for what’s known as the Rainbow Family Gathering. However, during past gatherings, things haven’t always been peace and love, and that has some people concerned.
Campers are flocking to the forest, but not for a traditional Fourth of July cookout. “The idea of rainbow is a prayer for peace,” said Corey Moore, who goes by “Pastor Useless.” “The idea of rainbow is all cultures, all backgrounds, all walks of life.”
Many of the attendees refer to themselves as hippies. They say the annual event is to connect with nature and discuss political and environmental issues. “They’ve been doing this about 50 years and they do a big annual gathering on a national forest every summer with it culminating on the Fourth of July,” said Hilary Markin with the U.S. Forest Service. “Following the rules is really important and for the health and safety of all of our visitors on the national forest.”
While around 500 people from all over the country have already set up in the Carson National Forest north of Sipapu, next week, that number is expected to grow to more than 5,000. In the past, the group hasn’t had the best reputation — everything from drugs to leaving a huge mess behind and even some violence.
An Albuquerque man was already arrested near the gathering for allegedly driving drunk and recklessly. However, the U.S. Forest Service says officers are routinely patrolling to make sure the space is respected and protected. “The forest is in stage one fire restrictions,” said Markin. “Those went into effect last week, so we’ve been sharing that information with them and ensuring that they’re following all those restrictions.”
However, law enforcement like the Taos County Sheriff’s Office have received concerns from locals. A public meeting was even held today to address any questions or concerns. “One of the bigger concerns, of course, being that there’s going to be fights or some sort of altercation,” said Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe. “Some are like let them be, and others are like, this is not a desirable group that we want to boost our economy or tourism.”
In the meeting, the Forest Service clarified issues like the fact that pot is not allowed in the forests, and to handle human waste, trenches will be dug away from waterways. Still, some worry about other forms of waste build-up like trash. “Leaving behind that much waste and trash is definitely going to have an impact,” said Undersheriff Steve Miera. “An area locals, historically, have used as a resource for their livelihood.”
Those set up for the Rainbow Family Gathering say they plan to clean up after themselves. They also invite any locals to journey up the mountain to see what the event is all about. “We encourage anyone with concerns to please come up and talk to us,” said Moore. “I will be here all the way through the last stitch of clean-up.”
In 2009, the Rainbow Family Gathering wanted to meet in the same area, but after residents raised concerns, it was moved to the Santa Fe National Forest near Cuba. This year’s gathering runs from July 1-7.