Taking Action At Fly Ranch

The 2016 purchase of Fly Ranch, a 3,800-acre oasis a few miles from the site of Black Rock City, came entirely thanks to the generosity of donors who wanted to support the next chapter of Burning Man’s history, and develop a platform for new cultural experiments and innovation projects. If 2017 was a year of exploration and documentation for Fly Ranch, 2018 was a year of putting this knowledge into action. More than 2,000 people spent time at Fly Ranch as part of nature walks, restoration weekends, art installations, resource-sharing, and prototyping exercises.

Co-organized by Friends of Black Rock-High Rock, the Fly Ranch Nature Walks enable the public to explore Fly Ranch’s wetlands, hot and cold pools, flora and fauna, and the famous Fly Geyser for the first time in decades. The immersive guided walks last three hours, and participants are asked to be fully present and leave their cell phones in “‘sleeping bags” before the walks begin.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers, including Burners Without Borders, and Black Rock City DPW, Gate, Greeters teams and dozens of theme camps, monthly work weekends and restoration campouts started cleaning up trails and clearing debris, repairing fences, installing temporary shade structures, repairing and painting a structures, and building a set of tables and benches from recycled wood. During the summer, BWB’s Mobile Resource Unit was on site as a tool shop-in-a-box for participants and a prototype experiment for what kind of resources are needed on the land in the future.

Sometimes theme camp resources that would otherwise sit idle for months can be repurposed for use outside of Black Rock City. After hearing that Fly Ranch was short on power, the Milk & Honey theme camp brought their solar array to the property from the Bay Area. They installed the array and led a training showing Fly Ranch volunteers how to operate it. The array powered nearly all operations during the summer. Burners Without Borders also provided their camp’s solar array for use during the winter and spring. Matt Schultz and The Pier crew installed the latest iteration of The Pier along the Nature Walk route. The project planted creative seeds on the property, and serves as the first test of how art can be responsibly integrated into Fly Ranch’s natural landscape.

The solar array also powers the Russian-style “banya” steam room, which was installed by the Art of Steam theme camp. Their team of steam masters offered treatments to weekend volunteers and offered lessons on the ritual, technique, and culture of the Russian banya.

This year also saw the return of Fly Ranch to the Burning Man event in Black Rock City. As part of their daily speaker series, the Burners Without Borders camp on Esplanade hosted three Fly Ranch panels in 2018. Topics included placing art within Fly Ranch’s dynamic landscape, and how the property could serve as a platform for Radical Inclusion by engaging with and including groups beyond those that might already consider themselves “Burners.” At each talk, participants were invited to throw their names in a dusty bucket for a random drawing of 20 folks who left immediately on a field trip to Fly Ranch. A few times during the week, the Fly Ranch team also drove around Black Rock City and invited random participants to drop what they were doing, hop on a bus, and go enjoy a hike and soak at Fly Ranch.

The Fly Ranch team is continuing to find new ways for the community to share its ideas and participate in making Fly everything it can be. We are committed to transforming Fly Ranch into an open-source site where cultural, artistic, and innovative ideas can be tested. Visit the Fly Ranch website for more information on the latest at the ranch and to find out how you can get involved.

Energy Fellow Jane Chu

Fly Ranch hosted a number of small prototype gatherings over the course of 2018. These gatherings were designed to test the property’s systems: composting toilets, an off-grid kitchen, and diverse housing solutions. One gathering was organized by Jane Chu as the conclusion of her Fly Ranch Energy Fellowship. Chu joined the Fly Ranch team as part of a partnership with Black Rock Labs and the Environmental Defense Fund to begin scoping the solar, wind, and geothermal renewable energy potential of the site.

Jane’s professional experience has revolved around a mission of bringing vibrant and sustainable communities to inhospitable lands. She has designed Sino-Singapore eco-cities in the Tianjin delta and has helped build organic farm cooperatives in the Tibetan plateau. Jane is an MBA and Master of Environmental Management student at Yale University, and she has already received her Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jane’s enthusiasm for Burning Man’s long-term vision reflects her greatest passions, and her work at Fly Ranch will continue to serve the team and the broader community for months and years to come. Thanks, Jane! Have a look at this video for more info.