Planning Commission Chairwoman Sandra Scott acknowledged Thursday that Camp Bisco didn’t start as smoothly as last year, but she attributed breakdowns in the festival’s comprehensive traffic plan to circumstances that were beyond the control of organizers.
Speaking during the commission’s monthly meeting, Scott singled out reports of roadblocks conducted by the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department for causing the bottlenecks that developed around the hamlet of Mariaville as a mass of fans tried to pour into the Indian Lookout Country Club during the pre-dawn hours on July 11 —the beginning of the three-day electronica festival. She said Batter Street became congested around 4:30 a.m., just an hour and a half after traffic was moving into the campground smoothly.
“The sheriff saw it fit to set up roadblocks,” she said.
Scott said the traffic snarls trapped an official with the Schenectady County Department of Health en route to the campground to monitor the festival. She said the official, who she didn’t name, implored sheriff’s deputies to shut down the roadblocks and they complied, which helped traffic clear up by late morning.
The backups led to problems with garbage on the side of roads leading to the campground. Scott said organizers didn’t anticipate the traffic snarls and therefore couldn’t have expected the amount of litter that followed.
“They didn’t expect anybody to be stopped on these streets,” she said.
Last week, Sheriff Dominic Dagostino indicated that his road patrol did nothing differently this year. He blamed the traffic issue on the “sheer volume” of vehicles going to the campground.
Scott also indicated that organizers appeared to have some trouble with mud. Heavy rain earlier last week left some parking areas designated in the traffic plan unusable.
Adding to difficulties this year was the high number of early arrivals to the festival. Scott said a number of fans showed up nearly a day before the gates at the campground were scheduled to open and opted to camp out in parking lots and on side streets throughout the town.
“On Shore Road, there were 17 cars parked overnight,” she said.
Festival organizers did manage to deflect noise away from the residences around Mariaville Lake. The main stage and tents were set up within close proximity of one another and facing away from the hamlet this year.
“We didn’t even know it was there,” said Scott, who lives near the lake.
Scott also disputed criticism some have lodged against the organizers for bringing more fans to the campground than the 12,000 people their special use permit allots. She said some misjudge the size of Camp Bisco because there are generally an additional 3,000 people on at the site when vendors, campground staff, festival organizers and the media are included.
Scott joined Code Enforcer Dale Warner at the site to observe the festival on Friday and was pleased with its operation. She said there appeared to be improved searches of fans entering the venue and the medical crew on hand to deal with emergencies also appeared to be bolstered.
The commission didn’t take comments from members of the public, about a dozen of whom attended to voice complaints about the festival. Scott urged them to put the complaints in writing so they can be included in a forum discussion to review the festival.
“Write it up, send it to me,” she said.
Those who attended the meeting —many of them residents along Duanesburg Churches Road —weren’t pacified by Scott’s review. Claudia Olejnik was disgusted by the traffic that clogged her road for hours and the fans who left her property littered with refuse.
“What do we need to do,” she asked, “set up cameras?”
Heath Cieszynski, another Duanesburg Churches Road resident, was equally frustrated by the traffic that poured by his home and even captured a roughly mile-long stream of it on video as he headed to work at 5:30 a.m. on July 11. And that was just the beginning, he said.
“It went on for three days,” he said. “Thursday, when they all came in, Friday, when the rest of them showed up, and then on Sunday, when they left.”