Conflict between Reggae on the River Organizers and Business Owners
Reggae on the River has a long history of conflict and drama. This year, its first at the popular French’s Camp location since 2005 when a move to a new area triggered a dispute which nearly destroyed the event, appears to be no exception. Zachary Bowman, owner of the Patriot Gas station and store, located across the road from this year’s event location has appealed the limited use permit. A hearing is scheduled for February 5th.
The appeal has triggered some unhappy responses from community members concerned that this could shut the event down. Bowman responded to the concerns in a letter stating that he is worried about the impact of this year’s traffic plan on his business,
The 2013 ROR traffic plan states that they are placing cones down the center of the highway which will prohibit northbound traffic from entering our business. There will also be a chain link fence barricading our business from any southbound traffic. The only patrons allowed to enter will be those that are riding the shuttle from the event to the KOA campground behind us. In years past, ROR had a crosswalk to allow patrons onto our business. These patrons would offset our losses of our normal summer traffic. But this year there will be no crosswalk provided. So basically from Thursday – Monday, we will be completely closed off from our normal course of business without any sort of compensation for our losses.
He explained to LoCO that he feels he has no other option than appealing this year’s Reggae on the River permit because he makes “over 60% of his business in the 8 to 9 weeks of summer.” To be unavailable to a major portion of traffic for even one weekend in that busy time period is a substantial loss. “I can’t afford to be out one day.” He says that he has “spoken together with the Mateel” but so far they haven’t found a compromise that works.
Bowman says that there are five businesses plus his which are impacted by the new traffic plan which has been devised. But Justin Crellin of the Mateel says the organization is working hard to soften the impact on the businesses in the area. He says that the Mateel will be
…working to maximize both vehicle and foot traffic to all immediate neighbor businesses, and will be running a local shuttle at MCC’s expense to take people across 101 with a stop next to the Patriot Station so that our patrons can support this business and any others on that side of the road. We also currently have no plans to run (or offer another group) a general store concession on site this year.
Crellin says that the Mateel is trying to work with Bowman and the other business owners but that some of the traffic plan is “non-negotiable.” There are parts that CalTrans and CHP designed. However, the Mateel has plans to mitigate the impact. Crellin says that,
Left hand turns from either direction are not allowed in the plan CalTrans approved, but CHP will have the discretion on the ground to allow left hand turns if traffic allows for it safely. …CHP is sensitive to the business concerns and have told us they will be as flexible as possible without compromising safety. And since we are looking at smaller numbers than historic levels and staggered arrivals over Thursday and Friday (an ROTR first), we (MCC) feel confident that there will not be the traffic backup associated with the event in past years at French’s Camp.
…We didn’t dictate closing the crosswalk to foot traffic or all the highway safety requirements mandated by CalTrans/ CHP. We are simply working within these guidelines.
Crellin explained that the Mateel has reached agreements with most of the business owners and “they are generally supportive if not happy that the festival is coming back.” He says they are in continuing talks on resolving the issues.
Bowman says he wants the festival to go forward. “I’m not against the Mateel,” he explained, “It does a lot of good for a lot of organizations.” He wants to see the differences settled before the hearing and he believes they will be. He is reaching out to the community with a request for calm discussion because he says, “I don’t want to get this into an ugly thing.”
JacqueLynn Arthur whose family owns the land that Reggae on the River has returned to this year says she is confident that the event will come together in spite of the controversy. She responded on Facebook to Zachary Bowman’s laying out his concerns by saying,
No one wants the community torn apart again. Hopefully, now that this information is shared we can all get together and figure things out before the hearing so it will have a positive impact for all involved… I have faith that Mateel, the CHP and the Bowmans will get it worked out. This amazing community will make sure they do.