British Columbia

B.C. closes provincial park ahead of hippie gathering

BC Parks has closed Raft Cove Provincial Park on northern Vancouver Island, in response to concerns about overcrowding, as hundreds of campers from a counter-culture group gathered at the small park.

Group leaves Raft Cove, says they respect protective locals' wishes

Group planned to camp at Raft Cove park on Vancouver Island 2:30

BC Parks has closed Raft Cove Provincial Park on northern Vancouver Island, in response to concerns about overcrowding, as hundreds of campers from a counter-culture group gathered at the small park.

Residents of Port McNeill, B.C., said participants of the so-called World Rainbow Gathering of Tribes, which started four days ago, would overwhelm the resources of the small provincial park.

The peace-loving campers, who are members of a group called the Rainbow Family of Living Light, planned to live off the land for a month, but some residents said they were unprepared and could damage the local ecosystem.

"People who go in there regularly, they say that 30 people in there on a weekend is quite a bit. Too much, almost," said Terry Ruth Eissfeldt, who started a petition voicing local concerns that a gathering would harm the park.

The closure took effect at 12 p.m. on Saturday and will last until further notice.

"The closure was prompted over specific concerns that an increase in the number of visitors unprepared for such a remote and rugged location would significantly increase the risk to public health and safety, the protection of the natural environment and the preservation of park values," said a statement from the B.C. Ministry of Environment.

Forced to relocate twice

Maureen Rose-Ice, known as "Morning Light" in the Rainbow Family of Living Light, said the group has already left Raft Cove.

She would not say where on Vancouver Island the new gathering spot will be, but said there were no hard feelings towards the protective locals.

"These are people that are willing to stand up for their land, and you know there is nothing more 'rainbow' than that," she said. "I think it's beautiful. I think it's absolutely beautiful."

BC Parks said it made the decision to close Raft Cove park after consultation with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the provincial archaeology branch, First Nations, and the RCMP.

BC Parks said officials will be on site daily to manage the closure over the coming days and will reassess as necessary.

This is the second time the group has had to relocate this year's event.

The World Rainbow Gathering was forced to move from its original site following a massive fuel spill into Lemon Creek and the Slocan and Kootenay Rivers two weeks ago.

The first Rainbow Gathering was held in a U.S. forest in 1972, born of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

According the group's Facebook site, the group gathers in forests every year "to pray for peace on this planet."