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Forest Service closes park in Colorado next to planned Rainbow Gathering

The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the closure of California Park effective 8 a.m. Saturday through July 15.

The closure corresponds with the arrival of thousands of Rainbow Gathering attendees. The festival is being held this year in Adams Park, immediately to the north of California Park.

The 2022 Rainbow Gathering is scheduled for July 1 through July 7.

"The Forest Order was established for natural resource protection because of the high probability for excessive public use leading up to and during the Fourth of July holiday," the USDA stated in an online notice issued Friday. The agency cited the area's biological diversity and geological, historical and paleontological values in issuing the protective order.

"Closing portions of the Forest is not something we take lightly," Forest Service Supervisor Russ Bacon stated in the notice. "In this case though, it is the right thing to do."

Routt County Road 80, the main route for the Rainbow Gathering's access to Adams Park, will remain open through California Park. The two parks are approximately 35 miles north-northeast of Hayden.

An event spokesman estimated between 5,000 and 10,000 people would migrate from across the nation to the annual "Gathering of the Tribes" event this year. Participants are greeted with signs and shouts of "Welcome Home!" upon their arrival.

The event culminates July 4th with a morning silent meditation for peace.

The first Rainbow Gathering happened in Colorado in 1972 at Strawberry Lake, a small body of water in Arapahoe National Forest land near the southeast end of Lake Granby.

This year's event marks the group's 50th anniversary.

"We are here to honor the earth and not to try to scorch it," Gathering participant Lia from Vermont told Steamboat Radio during a visit late last week. "A lot of wonderful humans attend, who put a lot of energy into each camp."

The Rainbow Gathering, a free event for the celebration of love and community, was most recently held in Colorado in 2006. That one was in Routt County, as is this year's. Officials wrote hundreds of tickets for drug violations and illegal camping at that event.  

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