Black Rock City 2015, This is Your MOOP Map! (and Your Auntie)

Hello all you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire, and welcome to the very last installment of Moop Map 2015! That’s right, I’ve got the complete (though not FINAL-final) results for the entire city grid of Burning Man 2015, all mapped for you.

I’ve also got one more person to introduce you to – though there are countless amazing, fascinating people out here working Playa Restoration, I can’t introduce you to each of them. Luckily, miss Auntie Social speaks for many of us.

Auntie Selfie!
Auntie Selfie!

Auntie Social was the Man Base Stage Manager this year, and has been a member of the DPW since 2009. She does many amazing things in the outside world as well, so I’ll be sharing some of her photos of a truly creative, original life. Get inspired!


Playa Restoration: Special Forces


This is a guest post from Shalaco, who has worked Playa Restoration the past couple of years and whose Instagram contains more Resto goodies. Thanks Shalaco! – Hun



Playa Restoration is divided into two specialized teams: Line Sweeps Division and Special Forces.

The line sweeps walk the city streets, arms length apart in groups of 30 with their well trained MOOP eyes that can spot a single sequin, wood chip or piece of carpet fuzz on the open playa. But when they find something that’s too BIG, too gross, or there’s just too dang many of it, they raise their MOOP stick to flag an oscillator to “cone it”. Taking a few minutes to cleanup what they can, then they walk-on, and keep the line moving. Special Forces will come in for the kill. “Killin Cones” is what these self described “Cone Killas” do.

Wee Heavy raises their MOOP stick to alert an oscillator of a ‘hot spot’.
Wee Heavy raises their MOOP stick to alert an oscillator of a ‘hot spot’.
Line Sweeps’ oscillator Eff’n Andy drops a traffic pylon on a ‘hot spot’
Line Sweeps’ oscillator Eff’n Andy drops a traffic pylon on a ‘hot spot’

So, who is special forces and what does it mean to be a ‘cone killa’ anyways?
Special Forces Manager Phoenix Firestarter breaks it down for us.

Phoenix Firestarter surveys the rapidly vanishing city for any remaining cones.
Phoenix Firestarter surveys the rapidly vanishing city for any remaining cones.


Moop Map 2015: Day 7, and BLUE

That's a good shirt.
Buena Chica, that’s a good shirt.

What up my moop maniacs & line sweepers extraordinaire!

For the past couple of days, we’ve been gleefully celebrating Black Rock City’s successful inspection, meaning Burning Man 2016 is like. SO. on. However, many of you don’t yet know how your individual camps scored! It is time to release the penultimate iteration of the Moop Map: Day Seven is here for you.

Jake Kaos and his perfickly safe survey flag slingshot.
Jake Kaos and his perfickly safe survey flag slingshot.

First, though, I want to continue introducing you to a few of the fascinating people of Resto. (Read about Major Buzzkill, DA, Pocket and Rando if you haven’t yet).

In truth, the reason I keep coming back to this place is for the people. THESE people. And today I’m sharing a story from one of the seriously undersung heroes of Burning Dude: Mr. Blue. This is a man who, if he took a day off, the whole thing might actually implode.

Mr. Blue as hood ornament.
Mr. Blue, sitting still for a rare brief moment.

Mr. Blue’s current job titles:

  • Man Pavilion Lighting Manager
  • Project Manager, Recycle Camp
  • Waste Stream Logistics Manager
  • Black Rock Trucking Manager
  • Facilities Manager, Burning Man HQ

I believe he’s the most managerial manager in the Borg. But what’s cool about Blue is that he’s a really good dude, and that’s why he ended up with all the titles. He just kept volunteering. To wit:

I left Michigan in 1995 and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, oddly enough because after twelve years of working in the entertainment business, nightclubs, bars, rock&roll shows, production companies and throwing events…I was tired of, if you can believe it, cleaning up after events.

The vibe there was: four to six people threw a party, 400 people came, four to six people cleaned up. I said, ‘I’m done with this, I’m going to go do something else.’

In 1996 I saw a flyer for Burning Man Decompression, and I went. It was nothing like Burning Man, though I talked with some friends who went to Burning Man. The more I learned from them, the more I thought I didn’t want to do this.

I actually think I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go out in the middle of nowhere and pay $75 to go to a rave, no way.’

The photo that changed Blue's mind. Black Rock City 2000 by Gabe Kirchheimer.
The photo that changed Blue’s mind. Black Rock City 2000 by Gabe Kirchheimer.


line sweeps: tactical information

Line sweeps are the DPW’s primary method of cleaning the desert after Burning Man. Participants well-educated in the event’s Leave No Trace philosophy know to pack out every single bit of their trash with them — but at the dirt rave, people lose pieces of themselves in high winds without knowing it.

Something incredible happens after the Man burns, Collexodus insures the DPW stays fed, and participants enter the default world: Playa Restoration. During this cleanup process, the DPW scans the desert for microtrash we call MOOP — any Matter that’s Out Of Place — in formations we’ve honed so much we feel they’re worth sharing to the larger world.

So this document is meant to demystify MOOPing for the people. Why? Open source, yall. Alternate applications of tactical line sweep deployment include:

  • post-festival or -gathering cleanup
  • clearing underbrush from a local neglected public space
  • search and rescue
  • LNT-ing at rights-exercising protests or temporary autonomous zones
  • finding a lost engagement ring in a field (why not moop too while you’re at it; don’t be a jerk)
  • removing party trash and tweaker camps from your favorite park or riverbank
  • etc
line up
line up

How to do line sweeps

Moopers line up with only enough space to stretch out their arms. They cover areas in large rectangular swathes, mapped and delineated in advance with cones set to coordinates marked on GPS devices. Do the math as far as how many people you have vs. how many feet your parallel line will be on the grid.

The best moop buckets are made from two-gallon water jugs with handles; cut out a square in the top front of the plastic in order to make it a ‘bucket.’ The top handles provide maximum comfort and the small hole in front of the handle prevents trash from blowing out in high winds.

(For alternate events with more potential large trash, such as cleaning disaster areas or mooping tweaker camps from the riverbank, you may want to use five-gallon buckets instead. If your trash volume will be high, maybe have oscillators running 55-gallon trash cans from the lines on dollies, then dumping those cans into other cans in back of central trucks in the parking lot, with transpo dump-runners allocated to drive the big stuff away.)


As a line sweeper, if you don’t have moop sticks, and your knees are okay, try to get in the habit of squatting instead of bending over, unless you’ve taken the appropriate posture and movement classes. You want to develop a slightly serpentine gait, turning at different S-curves as you walk your straight line.

Maybe even turn around in a little circle to look behind you every few swishes. Why? Because sunlight and shadows are tricky. Some bits of moop are barely seen from where you stand, but then become completely obvious when viewed from the other direction.

Line sweepers function under the traffic-control of their line bosses, who either use a megaphone or enjoy hollering. Line bosses must be tough, genial benevolent dictators — possessing a quasi-military attitude of ego-free tactical facilitation, combined with enough comical aggression to keep a volunteer labor force entertained in order to continue to do what the line bosses say.

Starchild. Photo by @JHFearless

What are some important things for line bosses to know, Starchild?:

BLM Inspection Passed. #BM2016 is a GO.

The combination DPW-BLM team.
The combination DPW-BLM team.



Awww, ya did it. Actual moop found today. Photo by Summer Burkes.
Awww, ya did it. Actual moop found today. Photo by @Summer_Burkes.

This morning dawned beautiful and clear, just in time for our Bureau of Land Management representatives to meet the DPW Playa Restoration team and review the site that once was Black Rock City.

Here’s what they found: very little. And that’s a good thing: once again, Burning Man has confirmed its reputation as the world’s largest Leave No Trace event.

The results of today’s inspection are NOT official. We’ll find out for sure, in writing, in a few months. However, I can tell you right now that – psst – we totally passed with flying colors.


“Hold on! But you haven’t finished mooping!”

Actually, we have finished line sweeping our way through the streets of Black Rock City – just yesterday, in fact. However, it takes us several days to produce the Moop Map images for you. So, for example, the map I posted yesterday reflected the results of last Monday’s line sweeps.

(Sorry for the confusion. Have you ever tried computering in this desert? It’s a slow process.)


“OK that makes sense. So what is this inspection again?”

NBD. This is only the most important part of the whole process. Each year, the Bureau of Land Management assesses how well Burning Man treated the Black Rock Desert (which is, of course, public land). The results of this inspection determine whether we will receive a permit to hold the event here next year.

In other words, if we fail, we can not return to the playa.

The BLM can’t inspect the entire 4.5 square mile event site in a single day, so 60 randomly-selected points throughout the city are chosen as a sampling. Each inspection point is one tenth of an acre. They cover all parts of the city, from the streets, to the Man and art sites, to the open playa.



Panorama shot of an inspection site (click to enlarge). Photo by @SFSlim.
Panorama shot of an inspection site (click to enlarge). Photo by @SFSlim.
Inspection tools: map, GPS readers, stakes and flags. Photo by @Shalaco.
Inspection tools: map, GPS readers, stakes and flags. Photo by @Shalaco.
Wee Heavy, Starchild and Kentucky with a flag marking one of the 60 inspection sites. Photo by @SFSlim.
Wee Heavy, Starchild and Kentucky with a flag marking one of the 60 inspection sites. Photo by @SFSlim.



In order to achieve success, there must be less than one square foot of moop found per acre. Therefore, each inspection point must produce less than one tenth of a square foot of moop. That’s a 3.8 inch wide square. It’s small.

And yet, once again, we passed with a visibly wide margin. Do you know how big a deal that is? It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and it’s something we all did together, as the community of Black Rock City.

From the BLM perspective, this is the most important thing. We share the same goal here, which is to return the Black Rock Desert to the way it was before Burning Man. We share your goals and the ‘leave no trace’ ethic. Thanks to all of you for this monumental effort.
— David, BLM Project Manager


A "full" baggie from one of the sites. Photo by @SFSlim.
A “full” baggie from one of the sites. Photo by @SFSlim.

“So how do we know we passed?”

It’s very scientific: each site gets a baggie, and into the baggie goes all the moop. Ten inspection teams, composed of Burning Man and BLM representatives, each cover about six different sites. They systematically line sweep the site, then seal the baggie and submit it.

The BLM then looks over everything that was found, and gives us the preliminary, unofficial result. Which, again, is a total pass for 2015.

Now they will go back to a laboratory somewhere and measure it all, create a detailed and much more official report, and send it to Burning Man as part of next year’s permitting process.


Phoenix Firestarter, Restoration Special Forces Manager, shows off the results of all our hard work. Photo by @Shalaco.
Phoenix Firestarter, Restoration Special Forces Manager, shows off the results of all our hard work. Photo by @Shalaco.


So first of all, let’s all thank the BLM representatives who joined us today, because they didn’t make us wait months to find out whether we passed!

And then, let’s thank our campmates, our neighbors, and our friends who took the time to moop their camps, pack it out, and Leave No Trace.

Finally, let’s give a big HURRAH for the Playa Restoration forces, who continually brave some pretty crazy conditions and do some rather brutal work in order to make sure that Burning Man keeps on rising from the dust.


As the inspection drew to a close, the BLM reps laid out all the baggies so we could see just how little was left behind from this city of 70,000. Champagne was popped and passed around. The cork landed on the playa.

“Pick it up!” someone yelled.

“No way, the inspection’s over,” said Summer. “That’s job security for next year.”

See you there.

Moop Map Day 6: Bless the Rains

The entrance to the playa this weekend. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.
The entrance to the playa this weekend. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.

Hello out there, moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, checking in after a very R-E-A-L weekend.

Boy, did it rain in the desert.

Thursday brought a deluge, and by Friday the playa was limned with glinting streams – standing water just waiting to swallow vehicles and turn your feet into mudboots. And then … it rained again.

Now, we’ve been down this road before. As many of you will remember, early rains in 2010 caused the BLM site inspection to be delayed by EIGHT MONTHS as we waited for Lake Lahontan to dry. When the seasons change out here, they do it on a dime.

AND YET! Your Playa Restoration hotshots REFUSED to be grounded this year. I wish I could express to you what that means, what it takes to get people safely on and off the playa, not just people but busloads of DPW, fording actual rivers as the winds howl and the mud squelches. How many hours are spent by DA and his crackerjack team, just to find a route from the highway to the city. How many sleepless nights spent wondering… will we do it this time?

NOT one of our trucks, but oh boy. Photo by Kerry Lundin.
NOT one of our trucks, but oh boy. Photo by Kerry Lundin.

It’s not for the faint of heart.

Moop Map 2015: Day 5 – What’s That Red Thing?

Art! Art! Art! Honk! Honk!
Art! Art! Art! Honk! Honk!

Greetings, you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! I’m writing this from the still-dripping eaves of the Burning Man office in downtown Gerlach, NV. We had a doozy of a storm that blew the crew off the playa Wednesday morning, then turned into a day-long rain. The playa turned to mud, and the entire Restoration operation was grounded Thursday and Friday.

After three days on the sidelines, we are all raring to go. Your Playa Restoration hotshots really love their job, folks, and can’t wait to get back out there and finish the job before Burning Man’s site inspection with the BLM. As a matter of fact, we’re planning to work through the weekend and right up until the moment our BLM representatives arrive.

If you ever felt like cheering on the Resto crew, now is the moment! Let them know you’re rooting for them. Send a prayer on the wind. Whatever good mojo you’ve got, send it toward the playa – we’ll take it!

Red Nose (purr)Rahna
Red Nose (purr)Rahna

So About the Red Thing

So listen, I want to answer a question that’s been popping up in the comments ever since Day One:

What’s that red spot right in the middle of the Moop Map?

Would you believe it’s Burning Man’s clown nose?

Moop Map 2015: Day Four and Our Fearless Leader

Hello you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! I’ve got more map, including the rest of the Esplanade, for you today!

How did your camp score? How did your favorite party spot fare? How did your mooping efforts pay off this year? Tell me about it in the comments please!

This year, I sat down to interview a few of the many fascinating people that make up our Playa Restoration crew. If you haven’t read Major Buzzkill’s story, you should – it’s powerful. And today I’d like to share a new side of the guy who started it all: D.A., manager and mastermind of Resto.

Also, a badass.
Also, a badass.

DA is somebody I’ve grown close to over time. We’ve done good work together over the past decade. But I always wondered: how did he get here? What path led him to this role? What inspires him to keep coming back, year after year, to lead an ever-growing crew in erasing the traces of an ever-larger city?