Copperas Cove chamber to hold meetings for solar eclipse planning
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Cove Leader-Press
April 8, 2024 is about 16 months away, when the city of Copperas Cove will be in the path of totality for the total solar eclipse that crosses over North America.
While other cities such as Killeen and Lampasas already have website pages dedicated to welcoming eclipse visitors to the area, the City of Copperas Cove is still at the discussion stages about what to do about making plans for the event, which will bring tens of thousands of visitors to the area.
The Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce released a flyer on social media and to its business members about two upcoming meetings to plan for the big event in 2024.
One meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 19, and the second meeting will be on Thursday, Jan. 26, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Copperas Cove Civic Center.
Local business owners are invited to attend one – or both – meetings.
At the Dec. 6 city council workshop, Copperas Cove’s Parks & Recreation Director, Jeff Stoddard, gave a presentation about the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse.
He showed council a map that demonstrated that the eclipse passes right over Central Texas and pointed out that the center of totality goes directly between Lampasas and Copperas Cove, and skirts over Killeen as well.
Texas has the fifth longest time in North America for the eclipse, and Texas is ranked number-two for viewing an eclipse at that time of year, second only to Mexico. Texas is also at the beginning of landfall.
This all means that a lot of people will be coming to our area. Stoddard said with the eclipse being on a Monday, the city will see visitors coming in the week prior and staying through the event itself.
The window of the eclipse is from 12:18 p.m. until 2:59 p.m. CST, a rather large window during the day.
Stoddard said that he contacted other cities who have experienced the impact of a total eclipse passing over their town. Hotels rooms were sold out, people were camping on every open space – parking lots, fields, and more. Streets turned into parking lots because as the eclipse began people would stop their cars to watch it.
Stoddard said he was looking for direction on what we want to do as a city, that we can not-plan for it and deal with what happens, or plan for it and try to have some type of event.
“I can tell you right now that city doesn’t have staff to plan for this type of event and would have to partner with many, many different agencies to get this done., and do it – you know – somewhat right.”
Councilman Fred Chavez was previously the director of the CTC planetarium prior to his retirement and gave his input.
“As Jeff says, we can do much, or we can just let it happen and see what happens, but I’m encouraging everybody to include the council, city staff and all the citizens in the area.
“This is an opportunity for us to look good internationally, to show that this is a great place to live and there are things happening. We have an opportunity to show off and we have an opportunity to – let’s just face it – to make a little money. I encourage you all to think out of the box and think about how best we can take advantage of this literal once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Discussion then followed about forming a solar eclipse committee, where there is outreach to other entities, residents, and businesses and seeing who is interested.
Stoddard said one thing to work on was partnering with civic organizations, such assigning a group to cover Kate Street Park and divvy up responsibilities and workload, because the city does not have the staff to manage every open space in the city.
Stoddard said other cities committees to prepare for eclipses, but they were centric to the local chamber of commerce. Stoddard said that in talking with Nancy Nelson, interim chamber president, to gather as many business owners as they can in the very near future for a briefing to give them the rundown on what other cities have done in the past.
He believes any eclipse events need to be business driven and city supported.
Discussion ensued about forming a committee to bring back recommendations to the city council, such as waiving the no camping in the park ordinance.
Councilman Chavez said that this is an opportunity for us to really do some good things, and it’s not just going to be a city thing.
“We are going to need businesses, civic groups, churches…there’s going to be a mass of humanity here. And every entity in this city has an opportunity to make an impact, to make some money, and to really show off our city,” Chavez said.
Mayor Dan Yancey agreed that it was really important for the city to put its best foot forward.
“I think all the things that you mentioned as far as temporary situations for parking, rentals, all those kinds of things are going play into that. But we need to go ahead and I would like to direct the council to get started, and get started very quickly.”
City Manager Ryan Haverlah reiterated his summary understanding of the presentation, as he saw it.
“Let’s work on some community partnerships and collaboration heading into that event,” he said. “What I didn’t hear council saying that the city needed to plan any large-scale entertainment events, which I don’t think is the city’s place to do.
“But if other organizations were willing to do that, or wanted to do that, the city council is at least conceptually agreeable to try to work with them to allow those things to happen.”