Every year, Burning Man’s city designers update the city grid to respond to the growing needs of the event, and 2008 featured some very dynamic changes.
Over the years, the changes have focused on increasing the size of the city’s clock design (first implemented in 1999) to accommodate increasing population. This year was the first time that the distance of the Man to the first of the grid streets, the Esplanade, had increased by a large margin. It went from 2100 feet to 2700 feet, which translates to a change from seven to nine football fields. This also served to push the blocks themselves out much farther, thus lengthening the diameters of the streets and widening their circumferences, which increased the lengths of the blocks, making for a very large jump in the amount of camping space. The result was that a population of around 49,600 had plenty of room to spare. This also gave more room to the many activities that occur in the areas in the middle of the grid and around the Man.
Another major change was in the diameter of Center Camp. It was pushed out an extra 500 feet to give breathing room to the many camps and community services that reside there. Finally, there was a longer fence line that increased the size of the entire event site. The fence went from 8.2 miles to 8.9.
How well these changes were liked and how well they functioned is still under debate. Either way, the impact on the crew that surveyed and built the new design was minimal. The crews of the Department of Public Works (DPW) of Black Rock City have been becoming more and more seasoned over the years and the methods of construction have become ever more capable. The grid still went in on schedule.
Tear Down & Playa Restoration
It is always with pride that we’re able to announce in this report that we once again passed the yearly playa inspection that is conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in early. The standards set by Burning Man and the BLM state that there must be less than one square foot of debris per acre remaining after the event. There was a measurable increase of debris over last year, but still well under the mark to pass.
However, this achievement comes with some emerging data that we need to take seriously. The BLM is reporting that while still within the passing standards of the Inspection, MOOP is slowly and steadily on the rise. The BLM permit that is issued to Burning Man is contingent on this.
A “MOOP Map” is maintained by the Playa Restoration Crew, tracking where debris was found on the playa. The amount of MOOP is designated by color code, where Green is the cleanest, Yellow is moderately clean, and Red is heavy with debris. In 2008, the final result was that 74% of Black Rock City was Green, 20% Yellow, and 6% Red.
The Esplanade, traditionally a very MOOP-heavy area due to its traffic, came in at 50% Green, 37% Yellow, and 13% Red – making 2008 the first year the Esplanade was mostly Green.
There was also a significant decrease in the amount of Large Abandoned Objects on the playa.
Black Rock City has long been, and long will be, affectionately known as “The Magically Disappearing City”. This achievement is made possible by various factors, the largest of which is the concerted efforts of the participants themselves. They continue to bring the “Leave No Trace” ethos to the event, to their camps, and to their art installations, keeping the playa clean, and making the job of the DPW that much more doable. Without these efforts, it would take more than this crew of over 75 who stays on for the second half of September, walking the city grid block by block to pick it clean. This effort follows the first half of September, which is spent striking and packing the city into containers and trucks to be transported to and stored on our work ranch, located about 12 miles north of the event site.
Tony Perez and Dominic Tinio