Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) will reject any future Water Lantern Festival proposals after piles of baseplates and LED lights were found scattering the banks of the Deschutes River.
In an emailed statement sent to Central Oregon Daily News, BPRD cited “issues that arose with containing the lanterns during the event, as well as the lack of communication, lack of remorse and lack of clean-up efforts. The inaction doesn’t alignment with our community’s values.” The district said it has notified the festival organizers that any future event proposals for the Water Lantern Festival will not be approved.
“That’s ridiculous. I’m sorry, but when people come out to nature and enjoy the beauty of this world and they leave it like that, it’s a crime. I think they should be fined,” Girl Scout Leader Kimberly Cummings said after looking at pictures of the lantern waste piles.
The Water Lantern Festival website says their team completely cleans up after each event.
“We thought the lanterns floating on the river looked beautiful. We came across people on the banks of the river that were tossing the lanterns up onto the banks. One of them said it was a disaster because the lanterns were supposed to be caught in some kind of barrier,” a visitor for Lake Tahoe who wished to remain anonymous said.
When asked if the lantern festival should be allowed to return, people had mixed feelings.
“No. Absolutely not. They leave the river dirty like that, no. They’ve punched their card. It’s done. They’re done,” Cummings said.
“I think the organizers should definitely know we had to clean it up. Then I hope that they come back and clean up parts of Bend and make it right. That’d be awesome,” Bend local Andy Fleming said.
“Yes. If they promise to do a better job and have it supervised,” Jesse Buck said.
The organizers of the Water Lantern Festival released a statement Wednesday, Aug. 16. It reads as follows:
We would like to address what happened at the Bend Water Lantern Festival.
The escaped lanterns in Bend was an unfortunate accident and we sincerely apologize for what happened. When the lantern launch portion of the event started, it became apparent that the current was moving too fast for the buoy line to contain the lanterns within the designated area. As soon as this issue was realized, announcements were quickly made to stop the lantern launch. Our team immediately began the clean up and recovery process, and began contacting local help.
We have also been working with Loot the Deschutes, a local scuba group. Their expertise of the river and knowledge on how best to retrieve the remaining lanterns has been incredible. They have been excellent to work with and we are indeed grateful for their help. Not only have they nearly completed the clean-up process, but they have retrieved many additional items left behind from over the years. Thank you Lled Smith and the Loot the Deschutes team!
We appreciate the great concern the Bend community has for the Deschutes River and we are taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again at any other event.
Our mission at the Water Lantern Festival is to bring communities together in a unique and meaningful way, creating an atmosphere of unity, reflection, and hope. We strive to provide a visually stunning event that promotes healing and understanding, while also supporting the local community.
We love the Bend community and wish you all the best.
Water Lantern Festival Team