Rainbow Family’s gathering nears halfway point | VailDaily.com

Rainbow Family’s gathering nears halfway point

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Rainbow Family’s massive gathering in the northern Colorado mountains neared the halfway point Tuesday with an estimated 10,000 people camped in the Routt National Forest.Forest Service officials said they had issued more than 500 citations, mostly for camping without a permit and drug violations.Diann Ritschard, spokeswoman for the Routt forest, said the campers were expected to begin leaving over the rest of the week.The gathering officially began Saturday, but Ritschard said law-enforcement officers began issuing citations on June 12, when the first members of the loosely organized, nationwide band arrived.Through Sunday, officers had issued 531 citations, including 287 for camping without a permit and 153 for drug violations.The Forest Service refused to issue the group a camping permit, citing fire danger caused by dry conditions and a widespread outbreak of tree-killing beetles. A federal magistrate set up court in a nearby fire station and held scores of hearings on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.Ritschard said “a significant number” of people failed to appear in court as ordered, and officers were trying to find them in their camps.Ritschard said Forest Service is trying to work with the campers to restore areas showing wear from the gathering, which covered about a 4-square mile area.She said vegetation has been trampled, fire pits have been dug and trails up to six feet wide have been worn into the forest.Rainbow Family members have said some of the group always stay behind to restore areas where they have camped.

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