Mateel clarifies status with neighbors

There has been a lot of community dialogue recently about the return of Reggae On The River to its original French’s Camp venue in the Cook’s Valley area of Piercy, CA. While this news stirs up different emotions in different people, it feels like the vast majority of the Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino community have embraced the prospect of the festival’s return, and many are overjoyed about it.

Seeing relatively little community opposition to the project throughout the public comment period and subsequent hearing process, the Humboldt County Planning Commission unanimously approved the festival’s application at their Jan. 3 meeting with an added stipulation that Mateel continue to work with immediate neighbors and businesses to reasonably address their security and business access concerns.

Since this time, Mateel has spent many hours continuing to work towards this end and have entered into signed agreements or been issued letters of support from all but three of the businesses in the immediate vicinity of the festival, the Cook’s Valley Patriot Station, Thunderbird Mountain Trading Company, and Grandfather Tree. While we remain hopeful that these businesses will recognize the economic opportunity that Reggae On The River provides for the entire community, and hopefully for their businesses in particular given proximity to the show, efforts to reach agreement with these entities still have yet to bear fruit.

For the record, what is being offered by Mateel to these (and all the immediate neighbor) businesses is 24-hour security for their properties over the duration of the event, maximum allowable access for festival patrons to support their businesses, and, in the case of the Patriot Station, shuttle service to the other side of the highway to deliver patrons at MCC’s expense.

Despite what is stated in our approved plan of operations about running our own onsite concession, the Mateel has also told these dissenting business owners that we have no plans to run (or otherwise farm out) a concession this year that would sell products that might compete with their items. And, taking this a step further, we fully intend to include these businesses on the festival map, in the program guide, and on our website, plus include signage at the event to better direct people to them. One would hope these efforts will help these businesses increase sales considerably, not hamper them.

Furthermore, we’ve continued to work in good faith with Caltrans and CHP to address the very legitimate freeway access concerns shared by these businesses. Though we have little pull in this department, we have been able to garner assurances from CHP that they will be as flexible on the ground as possible without compromising public safety. Being that our project is, at most, a third the size of the previous event that took place at this venue, and coupled with the fact that there will be no pedestrian traffic across 101 and staggered arrivals over Thursday and Friday (both ROTR firsts, and at the CHP’s request), we anticipate drastically reduced traffic impacts than what neighbors may remember from previous years. We also expect these changes will help better maintain regular tourist business while still allowing for the added boost from our festival patrons.

Since logic would hopefully dictate that thousands of festival-goers at your doorstep would tend to increase sales, if you add to this the reality that our project is much smaller, with different operations requirements, and is once again put on by the community center for the community’s benefit, it is hard to believe we are even at this impasse. Yet we remain hopeful that those who would oppose this event for their own economic concerns would take another look at the larger picture and allow us a year to see how these changes/differences play out. Only then will we start to establish a baseline and be able to talk knowingly about whether this event really does have the negative impact they are concerned about, all the while not risking a proven community fundraiser and economic stimulus. And, everyone should rest easier knowing our permit requires us to go before the Planning Commission every year to review the conditions of approval before the next event gets green-lighted

Thanks for taking the time to better understand our Mateel perspective. We hope you’ll support us in making Reggae On The River’s French’s Camp homecoming a reality in 2013. Please send letters of support ASAP to office@mateel.org or show up in person on Feb. 11 to say your piece. The hearing starts at 9 a.m. in the board of supervisors’ chambers in the Humboldt County courthouse in Eureka.

Justin Crellin

General Manager

Mateel Community Center

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