County Pulse

Supervisor Bill O’Brien comments on Symbiosis festival

kcarlson@modbee.comSeptember 27, 2013 

— Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O’Brien had his own assessment of the recent Symbiosis Gathering held at Woodward Reservoir near Oakdale. He said the county should consider additional time and decibel restrictions for festivals or music events that could be held at the regional park.

The five-day Symbiosis art and music event at Woodward was peaceful and an inspiration for the 8,000 who attended. It also showed that Stanislaus County can be a tourist destination. Many of the free spirits who gathered for the autumnal equinox were from the Bay Area or other places, although they didn’t come dressed in Bermuda shorts and pullover shirts.

County authorities did receive several complaints from neighbors about loud music at all hours. O’Brien said a survey done by the Valley Home advisory council revealed a weird phenomenon: The thumping music was louder for residents living five miles away than for those closer to the reservoir.

Officials said the festival stayed within the limits of the county permit approved for Symbiosis. But some have suggested the conditions were too lenient. The permit allowed music up to 110 decibels until 3 a.m.

Symbiosis did not find its way to Woodward Reservoir by accident. The county is trying to attract events to its parks to generate revenue and promote tourism. There’s no word on whether Symbiosis will return next year or beyond, but the county hopes to schedule other activities.

“Our regional parks are underused and gorgeous,” said Keith Boggs, general services director for the county. “Events like this are a wonderful opportunity to tell our story.”

Boggs said the county plans to reach out to Oakdale-area residents to talk about concerns and parameters for activities at Woodward. No public meetings are scheduled yet.

The county is supposed to get a percentage of the Symbiosis ticket sales. Staff originally estimated more than $100,000 for socking away in the parks budget. As of Friday, a figure was not available.


Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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