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Clackamas County moves to control rave events

More regulations, fees, applications, approvals planned to make events safer


No one thinks there will be another Woodstock festival (New York, 1969) occurring in Clackamas County, but county planning staff members are trying to prevent that type of event from happening anytime soon.

At the helm of this proactive effort is Clackamas County Planning Director Mike McCallister, who says during the past few years there have been several rave parties that he called “outdoor mass gatherings.”

Rave parties, which often continue nonstop from three to five days, often involve thousands of young people who dance and drink and use illegal narcotics to enhance the party atmosphere while listening to loud music — either with live bands or DJs.

“The reason we’re doing this, is because in the last two years we’ve had two rave events that tried to happen and two that did happen,” McCallister said.

A rave event is a gathering of 2,000-4,000 people on a rural piece of property, and organized by a production company. They generally start Friday and go through Sunday, 24-7, with bands playing constantly, McCallister added.

Teenagers generally attend these events, McCallister said, and they also are characterized by drugs, alcohol, trash, trespassing and constant loud music that irritates neighbors or drives them out of their homes for the weekend.

The sheriff and his deputies are not equipped to close down an event of this size after it has begun because of, McCallister said, “their personal health, safety and welfare.”

“If they were able to shut it down (after it had begun), you’d end up sending thousands of teenagers, who may be impaired by drugs and alcohol, back out on county roads,” he added.

In the past, county officials have been fairly lucky and have heard about some events as they were being organized. They immediately went to a judge and got a restraining order against the property owner and the producer to prevent the event from happening.

But they are not always successful at stopping events before they begin. Last year there was one near Deep Creek, with access on a narrow country road, said one man who lives near that area.

In 2008, a rave event happened near Eagle Creek, and people who live in the area haven’t forgotten.

“The concern that we had in Eagle Creek was that it went 24-7 for three full days,” said Charlene DeBruin, president of the Eagle Creek-Barton CPO. “We could hear that (noise) seven miles away. People in the valleys were protected, but people on the hills were kept awake. I don’t think you should allow anything to go 24-7.”

The county’s approach is to add an ordinance to the county code that will regulate these types of events so that when and if anyone asks if there are regulations and applications for a rave event, county planners can say, “Yes, here’s what you have to do.”

Proposed regulations would apply to all unincorporated land in the county, but would not apply to federal land, public parks, regular school activities, land within a city’s boundaries and land already authorized to hold large events.

“This (proposal) will not regulate your family gathering out in the country, or your backyard barbecue or outdoor wedding or church activity,” McCallister said.”It’s not intended to do that. It’s more about large, organized or commercial events and fundraisers.”

County staff members are in the planning stages for these proposed regulations. Planning staff are visiting with people at CPO meetings and other gatherings in the unincorporated areas and asking for comments to help guide their plans.

Current plans have four levels of gatherings, each with their own regulations, but each level allowing only one event in the county every three months.

Among the issues that emergency personnel are concerned about are noise, fire and wildfire, trespassing, traffic control, on-site parking and circulation, drugs and alcohol, emergency services and overnight camping.

The schedule for these regulations to be adopted includes visits to public meetings through March, writing the draft proposal through April and part of May, public hearings before the Board of County Commissioners in May and adoption in June, with the effective date in July.

For more information or to register a comment with staff writing the proposal, call Lorraine Gonzales at 503-742-4541 or send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..