The county approved permits for two more summer festivals at Belden Town Resort last week, but not before a Belden resident complained to the Board of Supervisors, alleging years of illegal activity at the festivals.
“They don’t follow the rules and you (supervisors) keep giving them permits,” said Darrel Smith during the board’s May 8 meeting. “You are just asking for trouble down there.”
Smith, who routinely sends letters to the supervisors complaining about the festivals, presented photos and video to back up his case.
The 10-minute video, shot during three festivals last July, showed festival-goers parking and camping outside the designated festival grounds. It pictured a temporary recycling center that he said “smelled terrible.”
Smith’s biggest complaint was about people parking on both sides of the single-lane Howells Road that leads to Smith’s property.
He said cars are not supposed to be parked along the narrow road. He added the congestion creates a serious safety hazard.
“There is no way to put out a fire when you can’t get a fire truck in there,” Smith said. “And I can’t get out. I’m stuck in there.”
Smith said the festivals also produce more crime. “There’s criminal activity whenever these events come around,” Smith said. “You can’t escape that fact.”
Smith accused the Plumas County sheriff of not adequately responding to the problems. He said that a number of festival-goers’ cars were vandalized last summer.
Smith said the victims were upset because the sheriff’s office wouldn’t send a deputy to Belden to take a report.
“A whole row of cars got busted into. But nobody wanted to come to Quincy to file a report. And the deputy wouldn’t go down there to take the report,” Smith said. “I’m sure it wasn’t a top priority to see who did (the vandalism). Because these people are from out of town, you know. It doesn’t matter.”
Smith’s accusation drew a strong rebuttal from Sheriff Greg Hagwood, who attended the meeting.
“You are saying the sheriffs won’t go down there because they are out-of-town people, so we don’t care? … Is that an accurate representation of what you are saying?” Hagwood replied.
“Well that’s my sense of what’s going on,” Smith said. “Because these things happen on the weekends like the Fourth of July, and you guys are busy everywhere.”
“Well let’s address that,” Hagwood said as he stood and glared at Smith from the back row of the supervisors’ chambers. “Is it because we don’t care and we won’t? Or is it because we’ve got a music festival in Quincy, we’ve got a Taylorsville rodeo, we’ve got Fourth of July at Lake Almanor and we’ve got Fourth of July in Graeagle. And we’ve got Lake Davis, Frenchman, Bucks Lake, Little Grass Valley Reservoir … Is it because we won’t, or because we can’t?
“If you are insinuating that we don’t or won’t (respond) because we don’t care, you are wrong. And I take exception to that,” Hagwood said.
“I apologize if I said the wrong word,” Smith said. “But I’m just saying their (victims’) needs were not met when they called to complain about these people.”
Hagwood said the sheriff’s office, which currently has 10 unfilled positions, has just 11 active deputies to cover the county.
“And I don’t have any more staff on duty for Fourth of July weekend than I do on a Tuesday in February,” Hagwood said. “I’ve got the same number of people. But we are quadrupling the population in this county.
“There are problems. But it’s not unique to Belden. There are problems throughout the entire county that weekend. And we respond to the extent that we are humanly capable.”
Hagwood added that he sent a patrol commander to monitor the festival in 2009 and 2010.
Belden Town festival coordinator Richard Folen assured the supervisors there would be additional security during this summer’s festivals. He emphasized that additional parking would be available at Grey’s Flat.
“So you are going to have people out there to prevent parking on (Howells Road) this summer?” Supervisor Terry Swofford asked Folen.
“Yes,” Folen said.
“Are people going to be putting tents out there?” Swofford asked.
“No,” Folen responded. “We will not be letting people set up tents east of Belden property this year.”
“That’s pleasing to hear,” Smith said.
Smith attributed the problems to Belden Town festival management personnel. However, Folen represents a new management team.
“We are going to give new management a chance this year,” Supervisor Robert Meacher told Smith. “Are you OK with that?”
“Sounds good to me,” Smith said. “Just keep (cars from parking) off Howells Road.”
Swofford moved to approve Belden Town’s proposed festivals for June 29 – July 1 and July 13 – 15.
The board unanimously approved Swofford’s motion.
The supervisors also approved a permit for the High Sierra Music Festival. The outdoor festival is scheduled to be held in and around the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds from July 5 to 9.
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