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Saturday Night Got a Little Too Wild in Tonto National Forest

Officials busted illegal party of 5K, complete with fireworks, DUIs, crashes, and blocked roadways
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2021 7:04 AM CDT

(Newser) – Officers from the US Forest Service stumbled across quite a surprise Saturday night while patrolling Arizona's Tonto National Forest—not a few teens drinking in the woods, but 5,000 people illegally gathered near the Lower Sycamore Creek Recreation Area. Forest Service officials say campers and other partiers restricted access along the main road by taping off areas for their partying, with parked vehicles also blocking the road, per CNN. From the Forest Service's description on Facebook, it sounded like utter chaos, with visitor violations including "DUIs, double riding, speeding/reckless vehicle operation, user created vehicle staging areas in the burned area, camps blocking roadways, illegal use of fireworks, and target shooting with unknown back stops." Not only that, but there were seven vehicle accidents by the time the night was over, a bunch of stolen off-highway vehicles, and kids riding ATVs without helmets, per AZFamily.com.

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One person even had to be evacuated out of the area via chopper because an ambulance couldn't get through. The agency notes a permit is needed for groups of 75 or more to gather there. A member of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter tells AZFamily.com she was "horrified" to see so many people crammed into that space, noting, "It's going to be super destructive." A spokesperson for Tonto National Forest says this appears to be the largest unauthorized gathering that's ever been documented there. FOX 10 reports that a local off-roading group claimed on Facebook to have organized the get-together and that it sent members back the next day to clean up the mess left behind. However, officials from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office say they don't know who ran the party and that no arrests have been made. "Don't be a part of the problem," the Forest Service implored in its post, adding that any other illegal gatherings like this should be reported. (Read more Tonto National Forest stories.)

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