No Permit for Rainbow Family Event

Associated Press/June 29, 2007

Fallsville, Arkansas -- The U.S. Forest Service said it won't require members of the Rainbow Family to get a permit for their annual gathering in a national forest, and have worked with members to come up with a plan to protect the forest.

The mix of eccentrics, young people and hippie types from around the country has been meeting for decades each year in a national forest somewhere in the U.S. to pray for peace and to celebrate love.

About 3,000 people had arrived in the Ozark National Forest in northwest Arkansas for the July 1-7 gathering as of Thursday, Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape said.

Instead of requiring a permit for the group to use the land, a team drafted a plan that includes requirements on distances between campsites and water sources, as well as sensitive areas to avoid.

Rainbow Family members say they have a constitutional right to assemble where they choose without a permit, but the Forest Service requires a federal permit for any gathering of more than 74 people.

"The Rainbow Family is making an effort to comply with our Forest Service regulations and trying not to make an impact on the land," said Denise Ottaviano, an information officer with the agency team. "For the most part, they are complying and there's not too much confrontation."

About 50 federal or state wildlife officers and county deputies were patrolling the event. Slape said nearly 30 arrests had been made on various charges, including drugs, alcohol, and disorderly conduct.

Fallsville is 150 miles northwest of Little Rock.

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