Outdoor Recreation

Revelers at Massive Party in Tonto National Forest Covered the Desert in Poop

U.S. Forest Service officials
U.S. Forest Service officials Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service
click to enlarge U.S. Forest Service officials - PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FOREST SERVICE
U.S. Forest Service officials
Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service released more details on Thursday about the massive, unsanctioned party last weekend in the Lower Sycamore Creek area of Tonto National Forest.

Thousands of people converged on the desert locale on Saturday night, shooting guns, driving (and crashing) off-road vehicles, dancing to a live band — and pooping en masse in the riparian ecosystem.

The Forest Service, which oversees nearly 3 million acres of Tonto National Forest that borders several Valley cities, first reported the mayhem earlier this week, declaring in a Facebook post that "over 5,000" attendees showed up. The rowdy visitors used fireworks illegally, conducted target practice, drove ATVs and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicle) recklessly, and blocked roadways with camps, the agency said.

Several thefts of OHVs were reported. At least seven vehicle accidents occurred. A collision between two quads resulted in the emergency evacuation of two people, one by ambulance and the other by helicopter. The whole unpermitted event, which made national news, put "the public, Forest Service personnel and first responders at risk," the Forest Service post states.

Susan Blake, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, told Phoenix New Times that there were insufficient restrooms for so many people. Revelers used the wilderness to do their business; authorities found a large amount of feces in the area.

"There were no facilities established, so people went anywhere they could find. That compromises the sanitary condition [and] public health," she said. "A tremendous amount of people [used] that area and that’s a delicate landscape, the Sonoran desert."

"They kept arriving and the highway got backed up," Blake added. "They were really giving a lot of tickets out there because people had open containers and they were riding like two-up on a single ATV, which is not legal."

Eight Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived on the scene after responding to a call about the party at 7 p.m. But Sergeant Monica Bretado, a spokesperson for the agency, wrote in an email that there were "no citations, arrest or incidents" and that the deputies' main concern was "public safety and EMS."

Bretado did not address additional questions about why revelers who were cited for driving under the influence by Forest Service staff weren't arrested.

Blake said that the party stemmed from a "Facebook meet-up." She wouldn't divulge the group that organized the event, but the Facebook page for Piratas Offroad, a 4WD vehicle enthusiast group, promoted an April 3 party in "Sycamore."

The group did not respond to a request for comment. However, the party's organizers did a "pretty good job" cleaning up trash leftover from the event, according to Blake.

"I've worked with the Forest Service for 10 years. I don't know of any event that has been that big for one event," she said. "We do have a permitting process and we’re willing to work with people. All they have to do is contact us."
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety