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Rainbow Family gatherers begin cleanup

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Jul 08 2013 06:09:39 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 08 2013 08:34:08 PM MDT
JACKSON, Mont. -

Many members of the 2013 Rainbow Family gathering have broken camp and are on their way home. The focus has now turned to cleaning up.

The Rainbow Family chose to host this year's gathering west of Dillon and south of the town of Jackson, the same location it was held 13 years ago.

Cleanup has just started at the Rainbow Family gathering site and folks will not leave until all the trash is gone

We saw about 30 cars leaving the site Monday. But while many are hitting the road, more than 1,000 will stay behind.

Ashley Perry explained, "All of the compost stays in the woods. We dig a hole and bury it and we burn all the paper."

Right now they are sorting. The goal -- keep as much of this stuff out of landfills as possible. They said the only way the cleanup works is if everyone helps out.

Eric Sponaugle said, "Everyone's supposed to be responsible for their own trash and take it home and not leave anything behind. The process is to yell at people in their cars who don't have trash to take other trash and get it out of here."

We learned the people who stay behind are mostly the transients, young folks, and the homeless.

Gatherer "Doc Zsu Zsu" explained, "The road dogs or street kids get here early and start building the infrastructure and most often are the ones that stay behind until the end."

He said the people with careers and houses are often the people who take off early, leaving their trash for others to pick up.

Sponaugle said, "It's frustrating but there's a give and take in any community. At the end of the day, it all kind of balances out."

Gatherers said they'll stay as long as a month -- however long it takes to get every piece of garbage picked up, down to the bottle caps and cigarette butts.

Perry said, "At the six or so gatherings that I've done cleaning on, there was less trash in the woods than when we got there."

They will also work to aerate trampled soil and cover the latrines.

"The idea behind Rainbow is it's open to everyone," said Perry, "and if you come out and make a mess we will clean it up after you."

The Forest Service said there are about 2,000 people left at the site and they are monitoring the progress of the Rainbow Family. When everyone is gone, the Forest Service will continue to clean and rehabilitate the area.