Moffat, Routt county law enforcement not yet seeing increased calls as Rainbow Gathering nears

Dylan Anderson
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Men stopped along Routt County Road 80 to talk to a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service who was there with several other officers and forest service officials for a prescheduled meeting with members of the Rainbow Family of Living Light to discuss resource management issues. The men were traveling along Routt County Road 80, and were not there for the gathering.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

While tales of problems caused by people with the Rainbow Family Gathering have been passing through Northwest Colorado’s rumor mill in recent days, local law enforcement officials say there haven’t been any incidents out of the ordinary so far.

“Social media is suffering from what I call Rainbow hysteria,” said Routt County Undersheriff Doug Scherar. “There have been no reports to us.”

Other law enforcement officials echo Scherar’s sentiments, saying that while there has been increased traffic in some areas, there haven’t been any calls that seem to stem from people traveling to the gathering in the Adams Park area of the Routt National Forest.

After last week’s announcement of the location for the 50th anniversary of the gathering, the U.S. Forest Service mobilized a national incident management team largely made up of law enforcement. About 35 of these federal officers are already in the area, and Forest Service law enforcement vehicles can be seen throughout Steamboat Springs, especially at local hotels.

The response is similar to how the agency deals with other incidents in the forest such as a fire, and many of these federal officers have experience working on previous gatherings.

That management team is also coordinating its response with local law enforcement agencies in anticipation of the event, which officials believe will see peak attendance around the Fourth of July.

“We have a meeting with them (on Tuesday),” Scherar said. “We’re going to primarily focus our deputies on local matters, but we will have an augmentation to the Forest Service up there just in case they have any incidents that require local law enforcement for state-level offenses.”

Hayden Police Chief Greg Tuliszewski said his officers haven’t had any calls related to the Rainbow Gathering either.

“Literally, we haven’t had anything going on here,” Tuliszewski said, noting that his department is meeting with the Forest Service team as well.

“We’re increasing our patrols, but we know that a lot of the Rainbow folks are good people and they’re just here to do their thing,” he continued. “I’m not overly concerned. We’ll do our normal stuff of making sure the town is safe and being there for the citizens or anybody that might need some assistance going through.”

Hundreds of people are already in the forest north of Hayden setting up for the gathering. The Forest Service anticipates this group of people to grow over the next two weeks, hitting a high mark around the Fourth of July and tapering off after that.

Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume said he is starting to see people moving through Craig to the gathering, though his deputies haven’t had to respond to any significant Rainbow-related reports as of Monday, June 20. He hasn’t made any changes with how he deploys his deputies at this point, but said he wants them to be visible around Moffat County.

According to Craig Police Chief, Mike Cochran, the Craig Police Department has received two calls this week that were connected with the gathering. Cochran said he hopes the interactions they’ve had so far will be the highlight of it.

Craig police responded to a call last Wednesday about a bus vehicle that pulled into the Walmart parking lot and disconnected the garden center water hose to attempt to fill the bus water tanks.

The other Craig call came on Monday, about a group of about ten gatherers who were panhandling at Walmart and City Market and said to be harassing passersby at both locations.

Cochran said the interactions with the group was pleasant and they moved after being asked to leave, but it did result in one arrest for a man who had a warrant out in California.

For folks who have anxiety about the gathering and what it could bring, Hume said they should try to focus on situational awareness.

“Locking your vehicles, making sure your personal belongings are secured, reporting suspicious behavior,” Hume said.  “I think (these) are all sound perspectives whether or not there’s a large gathering of the Rainbow Family who are going to be arriving over the next three weeks or not.”

Steamboat Springs Police Commander David Pearson said it is behavior — and not what someone looks like — that is important. Just because they may dress in a way that seems unordinary, Pearson said, there isn’t much of a difference from his perspective whether they are in town for the rendezvous or to bike around the valley.

“Maybe they look a little different than you. That’s not something that we should be getting involved in with the police,” Pearson said. “But, if they’re doing behaviors that are illegal or something that’s bothering you, then obviously we’ll come take a look.”

Craig Press reporter Amber Delay contributed to this report.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.