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Burns mayor discusses possible impact of Rainbow gathering

The Rainbow Family of Living Light is expected to hold their 2017 Gathering in north-central Oregon, and Burns Mayor Jerry Woodfin wants to make sure Harney County residents are aware of the possible impact on the community.

At the Burns City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 14, Woodfin said he was gathering information on the individuals who will be traveling to the gathering and discussed the precautions that the community can take.

Woodfin said the travelers are looking for anything that may be left out in the open, such as gas cans and bicycles.

“If they break down, they’ll leave cars stranded. Nine times out of 10, if they don’t have a car, they’re probably going to steal one,” Woodfin said. “Just be aware of any open garages or anything like that. They will, in fact, camp in your… any place that’s out of the weather. I think it’s just real important that people are honestly aware that these people that are peaceful transients aren’t all that peaceful. So I would just urge everybody to be cautious.”

Some reports have estimated that there could be 20,000 to 30,000 people headed to the gathering, as those were the numbers attending the event in 1997 when it was held on the Ochoco National Forest.

On Thursday, June 15, the Forest Service announced the gathering will be held at Flagtail Meadow off of Forest Road 24, near John Day and Seneca. Those looking to attend the event are expected to begin passing through near the end of June, as the dates for the gathering are July 1-7.

Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap noted that, with the warmer weather, there will be more foot traffic, more people out and about, and he cautioned residents to keep items locked up and/or hidden, and not to leave keys in vehicles.

Skunkcap also advised that there will be an increase in traffic at the end of June as, people head toward the Rainbow gathering, and again in August for the solar eclipse.


Harmony and Demian Cushing approached the council about erecting a fence around their house on West C Street for safety reasons. Because of the lay of the land, the Cushings were asking whether they would be allowed to put a portion of the fence on city property.

Woodfin cautioned that allowing the Cushings to use city property would set a precedent, and the city would have to allow other residents the same privilege.

The council discussed the possibility of vacating the portion of property the Cushings would like to enclose, if the proposed fence would affect visibility for motorists, and the sidewalk in the area.

Woodfin stated he would like more time to look into the issue, and the matter was tabled until the council meeting scheduled for July 12.


Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson told the council that warmer weather is in the forecast, and vegetation in the area is expected to start drying out around the second week of July, creating a fire hazard in some areas. Williamson asked residents to keep the hazardous vegetation cut down to reduce the fire danger.

He added that a full-scale hazardous material exercise was scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, June 17, near the former Monaco building. He stated both Hines and Burns fire departments would be taking part in the training, and invited the council to attend.


In other business:

• City Manager Dauna Wensenk reported the city is still working on nuisance properties, with more than 51 letters going out to residents, asking them to clean up their properties. She also thanked those who have already complied with the city’s requests.

Wensenk said the city changed its worker’s compensation insurance from Citycounty Insurance to SAIF, saving the city $15,000.

She stated the city’s airport engineer, Fred LeLacheur, resigned from his position with Morrison Maierle to go to work for the Redmond airport, so the city would be working with a new engineer on airport projects;

• the council approved the airport management agreement with Walt and Pat Sitz. The agreement is for three years with an option to extend the agreement and is effective July 1;

• the council approved an intergovernmental agreement for 911 and dispatch services, contingent upon changes to the agreement;

• Public Works Supervisor Pedro Zabala reported his crew had been busy patching potholes. He added that more roadwork  may be taking place in the community the first week of July;

• the council approved a partial payment to Knife River for roadwork on S. Egan, W. Pierce and Railroad Ave. in the amount of $77,129.73;

• a budget hearing was opened at 6:20 p.m. to make two adjustments to the proposed budget. Wensenk explained that, each year, she requested $10,000 from the county court for work on city streets, but, this year, the court agreed to donate work on the roads in lieu of the money.

The other adjustment was to put $10,000 toward economic development.

The council voted to approve the adjustments;

• the council approved Resolution No. 17-639, setting the rates for water and sewer services provided by the city of Burns. Residents will see an increase of 1 percent to the water bill and a 2 percent increase to the sewer bill beginning in July;

• the council agreed to hold a workshop at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21, to discuss goals and a vision for the city.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, at city hall.

Randy Parks

Randy was born in Iowa, and spent most of his life growing up in the Hawkeye State. After a few years in college, he settled in Idaho for a decade, skiing, golfing, and working at Sun Valley Resort. He married in 1985, completed broadcast school, and moved to Harney County in 1989 to work for KZZR. After 16 years of on-air work, he left the radio station and went to work for the Burns Times-Herald.

4 thoughts on “Burns mayor discusses possible impact of Rainbow gathering

  1. Mr. Woodfin’s comments regarding the Rainbow Gathering members are asinine, bordering on hysterical. To assume that the wandering hippies are going to steal gas cans, cars and bikes, and generally just mill about looking to prey upon the unsuspecting town folk, is ridiculously ignorant. As with any large group of people, there are likely to be a few bad eggs, but I doubt that as a whole, the Rainbow Family is as prone to crime as the local tweakers and parolees who roam the streets of Burns daily.

  2. The Rainbow “family” has a long track record of trashing national forests and thieving from stores and property owners. People in Grant and Harney counties have good reason to be apprehensive about them.

  3. “Nine times out of 10, if they don’t have a car, they’re probably going to steal one.” What’s the source of this statement? Does Jerry Woodfin even have a college degree?

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