[6/25/12 UPDATE: We’ve changed the nomenclature for these types of camps from “Plug & Play” to “Turnkey” to better reflect the way they function.]
We recently posted about Turnkey camping to start a dialog about this new form of camping we’ve seen happening more frequently in Black Rock City. The Burning Man organization genuinely wants to know what our community members are seeing, what they care about, and what good ideas are out there around this to create the best outcome for the community.
There have been no new decisions made about how to respond to Turnkey camps thus far. We have neither sanctioned them (and now “welcome them with open arms” as some have suggested), nor have we decided to ban them altogether. Your input on the blogs and forums, when civil, has been welcomed and appreciated, and is being incorporated into this decision-making process.
In order to facilitate this ongoing dialog, we would like to address a few key areas of confusion, so everybody’s on the same page:
- “Adventure” outfits (defined as purely commercial businesses offering a full service camp experience that have no connection to our culture and community) providing “a Burning Man Experience” are not considered to be Turnkey camps, and as of this year they will no longer be allowed at the event. Before we had a formalized process for making deliveries to Black Rock City (introduced in 2011 as a “vendor pass” then renamed to Outside Services in 2012 to better reflect the variety of deliveries we facilitate which help build the city) we had no way of identifying these enterprises. Now that we do, we will actively prohibit adventure businesses that are not part of our community and merely capitalizing on our event. It will not be a completely clean process the first year; there are innocent people involved who need to be considered and, as always, a spectrum of outfits that could fit into this category or may be of benefit to the community. They will need to be evaluated and treated fairly, but rest assured, we will not allow our city to become a revenue stream for these sorts of businesses any longer. We are calling on the community to help us with this effort by identifying operations and reporting them to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- There has been confusion on an issue referred to as taxation for Turnkey camps. These are the facts: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently informed us that they will require any business in operation at our event to obtain a permit and pay 3% of gross revenues to the BLM, just as Black Rock City LLC is required to do. This has always been their right. They began enforcement with commercial air charters at our airport in 2011 and this year they will require RV and trailer providers to pay as well. This will not apply to small “mom and pop” style operations or one-time deliveries. The BLM is not interested in capitalizing on every opportunity, but they do have federal permit regulations they are required to uphold, and this allows them to hold larger commercial operations accountable with regard to our event stipulations and their commitment to environmental stewardship.
- In the video it was mentioned that the Burning Man organization may be able to help support the efforts of Turnkey camps. To be clear, the type of support being considered is intended to affect positive change that would help turn a “bad” Turnkey camp into a valuable contributor to our community. (The community dialog has made it clear that there is a broad spectrum of Turnkey camps ranging from potentially exemplary to completely unacceptable.) While the organization has never told anyone how to come to Burning Man and how to engage (we don’t feel it is our place to judge people on their fitness to be a part of this community, 10 Principles or not), we have created guiding principles that have been adopted, and we have created rules that have been enforced. We now have the opportunity to make clear to Turnkey camps what the community finds to be unacceptable so we can create a higher success rate for camps not already “in the know”. We could, for instance, create a list of things like “While it’s helpful to create a private space for your personal community, creating a fortress of RVs is not acceptable.” (It’s easy to imagine how if you are not well-studied or currently part of our community, such a concept would seem foreign.)
It has long been a goal of the Burning Man organization to affect the default world, creating lasting impacts that change the way people live their daily lives. Creating unnecessary barriers to entry for the Burning Man experience is detrimental to that goal. While small-scale private commerce is an issue that needs to be addressed by the community – and many of these camps approach or cross the line of what is acceptable to many of us – it’s within our capabilities to educate and bring them into the fold so that our entire community may benefit.
We hope this clarification is helpful and we look forward to the continuation of a civil dialog around this topic.