(BTW, Apirl: Did you know the message board lets you create a poll with check boxes and bar graphs?)
(cross-posted from the dfdiscuss mailing list, for anyone who's thinking the "If we don't buy land, what else can we do?")
Essentially, there are four categories of options:
* Public Land (BLM, Forest Service, etc.)
This is the choice of both Rainbow Gatherings and Burning Man, but
with very different execution. On the forest side, I don't know of
any USFS campgrounds (certainly within three hours of Denver) that
would hold the whole 800 of us. The Rainbow folks have a team that
finds appropriate sites quite a ways from roads. This means they're
on their own for everything: sanitary latrines, water, transporting
stuff from vehicles to the site, etc. There is a permitting process
(that Rainbow Gatherings mostly ignore), and if there was a good site
we could presumably get porta-potties and other facility stuff there.
RVs, car camping, and mobility-challenged access would be hard to pull
off. It would, however, be a very close-to-nature experience.
Burning Man, on the other hand, takes a very blank-slate piece of BLM
land and creates a whole city (one of the most populous in Nevada). A
huge number of people put a huge amount of work in the month before
the event (and especially the week before), as well as an amazingly
thorough cleanup process. (Rainbow also has folks on site for a month
before and after.) Our infrastructure (even if we took away all the
trees) is a lot smaller, but we might need to extend the setup period
and have a lot more shade structures. Car and RV camping are easy,
but all shade, seats, fire pits, and everything else must be brought
along. (This assumes a relatively flat BLM site. As the largest
landholder in America, they have some places that are totally
* Private Campgrounds
As in locations with existing camp sites, generally open to the
public. The board investigated one such option recently and I hear
the site meets our base criteria, but highway proximity created noise
and privacy concerns. (As a burner, my first instinct was "Build a
shade structure that solves three problems.") Structurally, this
would be a lot like Wellington: fairly minimal work needed on our
part, fairly accessible for cars, RVs, and folks with mobility issues,
etc. Fees and owner caprice could be an issue, but I wouldn't expect
something of a different scale than Wellington had. In addition to
campgrounds open to the general public, we might want to consider
current and past Boy Scout camps.
* Private Ranch/Farmland
Work out an arrangement with someone who owns 40+ acres of rural
land. It wouldn't have a lot of infrastructure to use, but it could
be as comfortable as a national forest (or it could be more BLM-
level). Dreamtime, most regional Burning Man events, and lots of
other festivals follow this route. With the right land owner (someone
who shares our community values), this could be a great arrangement.
This is the most wide-open option, and probably depends on someone in
the community knowing someone with appropriate land. For instance,
Dragonfest on Dreamtime's land could be interesting, especially if our
event was the week after theirs and we took responsibility for tearing
down their shade structures. Unfortunately, Paonia is 4-5 hours away
from Denver (so we'd have to change the bylaws to meet there) and
camping there is less comfortable than camping at Wellington.
* Buy Our Own Land
Independently (if we can raise a lot of money) or with other groups,
purchase a parcel of land in categories 2 or 3. This is the route
taken by the Renaissance Festival, the Boy Scouts, and other groups
that have a revenue stream for more than one week a year. This comes
with the most responsibility -- taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.
every year. It also comes with the most flexibility: given enough
volunteer and financial energy, we can shape the site to what best
meets our needs. It might require raised ticket prices, more year-
round volunteer work, expanded services to generate additional income,
etc. It's been a long-term dream for a lot of Dragonfest members, but
a lot of folks have also questioned the costs and benefits of doing so
now that we've looked at exactly what it entails.
I've tried to be objective in these observations so that other folks
can contribute their opinion on which trade-offs are best. Unless we
find something a lot like Wellington, some things about the retreat
will have to change (some for the better, we hope), though the degree
of difference depends on the type of site. Let's make sure we discuss
what will change in addition to the view.
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