Counter-culture campers at Raft Cove Provincial Park on northern Vancouver Island were preparing to leave Monday night and Tuesday morning on a van chartered by the provincial government, after the World Rainbow Gathering of Tribes was shut down by B.C. Parks.
About 100 members of the Rainbow Family were camping in the park but up to 2,000 members could be travelling to B.C. from around the world.
Their next destination remains a closely guarded secret.
Rainbow social-media sites have become private and messages to Rainbow Family members instructed them to pass on the new destination only by word of mouth.
However, postings on the Rainbow bulletin board from confused would-be campers suggested that Rainbow Beach on Kennedy Lake, near Tofino, could be the next stop for the month-long gathering.
“There are, so I’m told, some folks at Rainbow Beach near Tofino on the Island, which, from all that I have seen, makes more sense than any other site I am aware of and has been inviting the Gathering there for months,” said one posting.
An official statement from the World Rainbow Gathering said a major catalyst in persuading campers to leave was a plea from Ralph Wallasof the Quatsino First Nation, who flew into Raft Cove with B.C. Parks officials Saturday.
The First Nation had asked for an opportunity to speak about the cultural values of the area, said an Environment Ministry spokesman.
The Rainbow statement says the “family” agreed they would leave the site if an elder of the Quatsino personally asked them to, although it cited the “hypocrisy of thousands of logged acres of sacred forest in an area where environmental concerns were cited as a reason against our gathering.”
A new site will be agreed upon within 48 hours and communicated by private messages to avoid media fallout, it says. “It hurts us that there have been such challenges facing the world family, who have travelled such long distances to circle with us,” says the statement, signed Love and Light.
Raft Cove was a second choice for the group, after a Slocan River site was abandoned because of a jet-fuel spill that fouled the river. North Island residents and Raft Cove users feared the park would be destroyed because the crowd would be so large.
“If it had been somewhere else, it wouldn’t have been so much of an issue,” said Port McNeill Coun. Gaby Wickstrom.
There were also concerns over the well-being of the visitors entering the park, many of them unprepared to deal with the harsh climate of northwestern Vancouver Island near Cape Scott.
A 13-passenger van was chartered to help those without a vehicle get to Port Hardy. Many participants had hitchhiked to the remote park.
“For those [who] don’t have their own transportation, B.C. Parks staff have offered to shuttle Rainbow gatherers from the park to Port Hardy via the North Coast Trail Shuttle,” said a ministry spokesman.
The van is normally used to take hikers to or from the trailhead of the new North Coast Trail and the existing Cape Scott Trail.
The Rainbow Family held its first gathering in 1972 and camps centred on love, harmony and world peace are held in many parts of the world.
In some areas, residents say campsites have been left pristine, while other sites have sparked bitter complaints about mess and garbage left behind.
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