Anthony Marnell is not’t about to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Bullhead City canceled its annual River Regatta in 2016 after some 30,000 partiers trashed Davis Camp and the Colorado River. It took city staff and volunteers several days to clean it up.
Marnell, chairman of Marnell Gaming, which owns the M Resort in Las Vegas and the Colorado Belle and Edgewater hotel casinos in Laughlin, assured Mohave County Board of Supervisors Tuesday he’ll clean up the camp and river before and after the event.
He’s already picked up 700 pounds of trash, with another cleanup set for Feb. 16.
After listening to Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and a couple of public comments, supervisors voted 5-0 at their regular meeting to approve a special permit to Marnell Gaming for the 2018 River Regatta.
Marnell agrees to pay $75,000 to Mohave County Parks for the rental of Davis Camp from Aug. 8-13, which includes a two-day cleanup period.
“To cancel this event after 10 years of success because it did get too big, I use the analogy it’s like canceling the Super Bowl because you can’t clean up the tailgate parties,” Marnell told the board.
Supervisor Hildy Angius, who represents Bullhead City, said Marnell met with Bullhead City staff and promised $100,000 to clean the river before the event. He’s also collecting an “environmental impact” fee from each registrant that will fund ongoing cleanup of the river.
“That’s something we’ve never had and one of the reasons, with trepidation, I’m going along with this,” she said.
Marnell said he’s committed to do what he says, “or you can have my throat to choke.”
If he does his job, it will be documented, he said. And if he doesn't’t, that will be documented as well.
The River Regatta should have never grown to 30,000 participants in 2016, and Marnell said he’s reducing the event by 30 percent.
“Yes, 20,000 people in the river are going cause some trash and some cleanup, but I believe we are prepared to do it,” he said. “Cleanup will start the minute the first person steps into the river.”
Marnell will dedicate 155 people to cleanup, including 40 people on boats, 20 people snorkeling and 20 people scuba diving for trash.
Sheriff Schuster said previous regattas were held in the jurisdiction of Bullhead City, and his only issue is law enforcement and security needs surrounding the event.
“I’m just finding out about this and I’m taken aback a little bit, I guess,” he said. “It’s not the event I’m concerned with. It’s about public safety and proper measures taken. I felt I should be informed about this.”
Timothy Williams, chairman of Fort Mohave Indian Tribe, said one thing that hasn’t been taken into consideration is the Coast Guard permit, which Bullhead City had for the event.
He said the tribe strongly opposes the River Regatta, and he was disappointed with the board’s vote for approval.
“We’re directly affected,” Williams said. “There are things we hold true spiritually, culturally and mentally, but I know those intangibles that some don’t understand.”
Bullhead City resident Royanne Ortiz spoke in support of the River Regatta. She believes the event belongs in the hands of a private business instead of the government, and likes the idea of a cleanup fee.