A message to our dedicated festival fans…
Last year, after many years of increasing requests, we expanded our festival to include a 4th day by opening our facility on Thursday, a day earlier than usual. In an attempt to make this change work for everyone we decided to open the parking gates at 12 noon, instead of our usual 7 am; allowing people to stay home the night before and arrive without having to get a hotel room locally the night before.
In the process of making this change we went over our plans with Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, with the new operation being approved by all parties. When Thursday morning came around we had our staff in place and opened our gates at noon as planned. However, what we did not expect was that almost everyone who had bought tickets for Thursday all arrived at 12 noon sharp, an event we’ve never experienced before. By around 12:30 the number of cars attempting to turn off of Highway 101 had backed up about a mile towards the south, making for a congested highway that has never happened in the 25 years of festivals at Black Oak Ranch.
While our staff was doing all they could to get everyone off the highway as fast as possible, the line on the highway kept getting longer because most of the traffic had to turn across southbound traffic, which it turns out is much heavier at noon than at 7 am. Finally Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol decided that we should shut down the entry gate and make everyone move on past the facility until we could ease up the congestion within our parking lot. It only took about 10 minutes for the interior traffic to subside, during which time we opened up a new interior road so that we could process cars off the highway more quickly while maintaining a safe traffic plan for everyone.
Once we had the new plan in place we went to the CHP and asked that we re-open the gates to keep cars flowing off the highway into our parking lot. The officer on duty at the front gate then told us he had instructions from his boss to keep the gates closed until the boss arrived from Garberville. We had an extensive conversation about this, with us saying that waiting for someone coming from Garberville would create a much larger traffic jam and would extend the time that it would be effecting Highway 101 traffic. While the officer on duty was in agreement with us, he had specific instructions from the Garberville office to keep the gate closed, so no matter what we said he would not stray from his position. About 15 minutes later a CHP sergeant arrived, not the boss from Garberville but a higher-ranking officer than the one on duty. After a short conversation with the officer on duty, the sergeant agreed to re-open the gates and within a few minutes we had things running again.
This went on for about 15 minutes, with traffic moving and the highway congestion beginning to ease. Then the Sergeant was contacted by the boss coming from Garberville and was told in no uncertain terms that he must close the gates until the boss arrived. So once again the gate was closed and traffic was required to circle back and forth for another half hour until the boss arrived. Once the boss arrived he realized within a few minutes that the best thing to do was re-open the gates, so that is what we did. By this time people had been circling for over an hour and tempers were flaring, so we did as best we could in getting people in as fast as was possible, and within an hour we had the traffic off the highway and into the festival campgrounds.
Since then we have had a number of meetings with Caltrans and CHP where we all realized that the mistake we made was opening at noon, instead of our usual 7 am. For 25 years we have always opened at 7 am, and we had never experienced traffic congestion like we did last year, even with events with a much larger capacity. We are now returning to our standard practice of a 7 am opening and we can assure you that we will be able to process everyone off the highway in a timely and orderly fashion. While some mistakes were made, we do not blame anyone but ourselves for instigating a plan that did not work. We sincerely apologize to everyone caught up in the traffic snafu last year and we hope you will give us another chance in showing that we run a smooth operation and are concerned with the way our festival fans are treated. We truly appreciate the years of support we have received from the greater community and look forward to continue to celebrate this very special time and event together.
Back Roads Productions
Black Oak Ranch
Kate Wolf Music Festival