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B.C. park reopens after closing to prevent Rainbow Family gathering

Collin, from left, Noah, and Dave enjoy some music during their morning stroll back to the Instant Soup Kitchen at the Rainbow Gathering, July 2, 2008. The Rainbow Family is a loosely knit counterculture group that gathers on federal lands around the U.S. each year, usually in early July.

Tim Kupsick/AP

A remote park on the northern tip of Vancouver Island has been reopened by BC Parks, about a week after it was closed to prevent hundreds of counter-culture campers from gathering in the spot.

In a statement released Wednesday, BC Parks said it reopened Raft Cove Park on Aug. 18 after completing a site assessment. A spokesperson said no significant damage was done to the park. The only noticeable change was some "minor vegetation clearing that will grow back in."

Residents of the nearby communities of Port McNeill and Port Hardy were outraged two weeks ago when they heard a large group of campers could be descending on the tiny beach to camp for weeks. The residents worried the park's environment would be destroyed by the number of people who would attempt to live off the land.

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The gathering was being held by a group called the Rainbow Family of the Living Light, a leaderless movement started in the U.S. in 1972. The Rainbow Family holds annual gatherings in the U.S. that draw up to 20,000 people, all camping in a public forest. The Raft Cove gathering was being organized by a global branch of the movement, and had 1,800 people on a Facebook page expressing interest in attending. Rainbow Family members have since said there were less than 200 who attended.

BC Parks said it decided to close the park on Aug. 10 because "the anticipated increase in visitors raised concerns over public health and safety, the protection of the natural environment and the preservation of park values."

After Raft Cove Park was closed, the Rainbow Family moved to a park near Tofino called Rainbow Beach, but they were eventually asked to leave by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, which manages the park. The group has since tried to keep their location secret from the media.

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