Reggae on the River a success for the Mateel; management team listens to neighbors of the event

Sandy Feretto

Redwood Times

Reggae on the River at French's Camp in Piercy performed beyond initial expectations this year, board treasurer Garth Epling told the board and staff of the Mateel Community Center at their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17. Though the final numbers are not in yet, Epling said it is safe to say that the Mateel netted at least $340,000 from the event. The Mateel does not provide copies of board packets or financial statements to the public or press at their board meetings, but they say that information is available to view during business hours at the Mateel office in Redway.

General manager Justin Crellin attributed the reasons for the profitability of holding the event at French's Camp over Benbow State Recreation Area to the higher attendance numbers and higher ticket price justified by the longer event, three and four days instead of two days, and camping on site.

Crellin expressed the opinion that more people came to the event because it was the more traditional reggae experience.

Site manager John Jennings updated the board on the Reggae on the River site. There were water quality requirements with all the agencies and Jennings said he is happy with the way things turned out. He has placed a high priority on taking care of the water, he said.

All the agencies have been informed, Jennings reported, Fish and Wildlife, NOAH, Water Quality Board, Army Corps of Engineers and a follow-up meeting with the agencies was scheduled for last Saturday.

Jennings reported that they now have eight more water tanks up on the hill above the site for 40,000 more gallons of water storage. This is in addition to the 30,0000 to 40,000 gallons of storage already there, he said.

Jennings said that the Mateel has gotten permission from the Water Control Board for next year to water the bowl at the event site before the show because the water goes back into the river. Jennings requested authorization to purchase a lawnmower and put it at the site before the bridge is removed for the winter. His hope is to mow the lawn a few times in the spring next year and then when the bridge is replaced in the summer, bring in a water truck and flood it with 3,000 gallons to get it green to keep the dust down during the show. The bridge over the river will be removed this week, he said.

Jennings also purchased a container to store all the fencing on site.

The Mateel is committed to bringing the leach fields for gray water at the site used for the showers, nonprofit kitchens and volunteer kitchens up to compliance.

Epling reported that they had borrowed from their reserve share at the beginning of the year and he suggested replenishing that and adding 10 percent, which would bring it up to approximately $165,000.

With the 30th anniversary of Reggae coming up, there will be a lot of expenses. The Mateel is already looking at the starter budget for next year's Reggae on the River with broad strokes, Crellin said.

Epling said since they know reggae netted a minimum of $340,000 the Mateel will be able to add $8,500 to the donation fund and the same to the phase-two building fund. Due to the impacts the event has on the South Fork Eel River, the Mateel is exploring nonprofits that benefit the river for donation, to find a way to give back something. They are talking to Sanctuary Forest, Salmonid Restoration Federation, Friends of the Eel River, and Richard Geinger.

The board also discussed funding Recycled Youth this year because the grant funds to that program, which is integral to the Mateel, are not guaranteed by other funding sources. Some years the Mateel fully funds that program, and some years the program receives outside grant funding. It helps Recycled Youth in their applications to funders that the Mateel funds them some years. The Mateel also picks up the slack in funding on the years that Recycled Youth does get funding. The cost for that program is usually in the $10,000 range.

Crellin reported that the Mateel's fall schedule is looking good, with a Hank III show, Hempfest and rentals of the hall lined up. The theme chosen this year for the Winter Arts Faire is Hawaiian Holiday.

Jennings reported that work at the community center hall included completion of the cupola by New Age Plastering of Arcata, and plans to upgrade the toilets.

Dick Stull, accompanied by Robie Tenario and Kathleen Sweet, made a presentation to the board requesting a donation of hall use for an all-day workshop on March 29 with Dave Gluck, who co-wrote a book about the convergence of music and sports, peak performance and the zone. The tentative plan is to have Gluck present a general talk to the public, a percussion workshop, and then a jam. The Mateel board was receptive to the idea since it is in keeping with their mission.

When asked about the news of the sale of the Dimmick ranch to five Bay Area partners reportedly interested in using the site as a concert venue, Crellin and Jennings said they were still trying to wrap their minds around it. Jennings said the new property owners want to work with the Mateel.

After the meeting Crellin confirmed that there was a critical incident at this year's Reggae on the River involving unauthorized use of an event golf cart resulting in an accident in which two volunteers were injured, one seriously. Crellin said the incident is being investigated by the sheriff, the California Highway Patrol and the Mateel's insurance investigators.

Reggae has good-natured neighbors in Piercy

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the Mateel Community Center's Reggae on the River management team met with interested residents of Piercy for an event follow-up at the Richardson Grove RV family campground. About 25 people attended, including Sgt. Ken Swithenbank of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office's Garberville substation.

Katz Boose, who manages operations for the Summer Arts and Music Festival and Reggae on the River facilitated the meeting, one of several required by the Conditional Use Permit for the event.

Every person present was given an opportunity to share their experiences. Boose also passed around a suggestion box.

Mateel general manager Justin Crellin said that the event was a big learning experience for him and everyone involved. He said they retooled some aspects of the event to keep it more in line with community ideals. The smaller attendance numbers and staggered entrance times helped alleviate traffic problems, he said.

In general, most of the people present expressed support for the Mateel Community Center and Reggae on the River, though some people who lived near the event said they found it hellish. But they said they like reggae music, so it wasn't all bad.

Most people felt that the Mateel had listened to their concerns before, during and after the event and were responsive to the neighbors. Several neighbors who had lived there for many years said this year the event went much better than in years past when it was in the area and much bigger. Most of those present said they liked the smaller size of the event and many didn't want to see attendance increased in the future. The residents and businesses noted the huge impact the event had on their lives for the duration of the event and for some time before and after. A few talked about the noise bothering them.

The management team admitted they were unprepared for the incapacity of local cell phone towers to handle the increased cell phone use, causing all of Piercy to lose cell phone service during the event. One of the event coordinators said that mistake can be remedied next time by trucking in additional cell phone towers. It's done at other events all the time, he said.

Fencing and off-site security were frequently mentioned as areas that needed improvement.

The California Highway Patrol, who were not represented at the meeting, had directed that crossing the highway from the event site to the Patriot Gas Station and the campground be prohibited during the event.

Most people thought that was a mistake and crossing the road during the event should be allowed in the future. Some of the Piercy businesses said they lost business during the event and some thought it was because of how the road was blocked off, and shuttling was not adequate to alleviate the problem. Others said their regular tourists were put off by the concert attendees and that those who were there for the event were not their target market.

Security for locals was deemed to be somewhat lax, which made some people uncomfortable. One Piercy resident said that the fire department had to do some security tasks that the Mateel should have done.

A business owner suggested special wristbands that identified locals.

One local resident and business owner who stated his support for the Mateel and Reggae complained that there was antagonism between the Mateel and some Piercy residents.

The reggae management team reiterated their willingness to meet individually with those who had problems with the event.

A coordinator promised improvement in preseason training of off-site security.

Sgt. Swithenbank commended the Mateel on a well-run event. He said from the sheriff's office point of view it went smoothly, and the size was fantastic.

How the proceeds of the event directly benefit the community was brought up. Several people wanted donations to go to schools, and one person wondered why Leggett School does not receive donations from the event.

Crellin explained that the Mateel has established donation funds. Both major fundraising festivals, Reggae on the River and the Summer Arts and Music Festival give 2.5 percent of their proceeds back to two different funds. One directly benefits causes that align with the Mateel's mission, and one benefits the Mateel Community Center hall. Crellin explained that there is still a phase-two building plan for the hall, a grand design to make the center a multi-use facility that will benefit the community. He pointed out that there will be a donation to benefit the South Fork Eel River. Crellin said that last year the Mateel donated to the skate park, Humboldt Area Foundation, South Fork High School and the Garberville Town Square.

The Mateel board has open meetings and will hear suggestions for possible recipients of donations.

In the spring there will be another meeting to begin planning for next years' reggae event.


About 26 people met with the Mateel's ROTR management team in Piercy to discuss how the event was handled.