City to hire planner to coordinate prep for solar eclipse visitors
By LYNETTE SOWELL
April 8, 2024 is 367 days away, and the city of Copperas Cove and other central Texas cities are in the path of totality of an upcoming total solar eclipse.
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 the eclipse's landfall in the U.S.
According to greatamericaneclipse.com, Texas should expect between 180,000 to 720,000 visitors to the state. Altogether, there are about 12,784,000 residents living in the path of totality.
This means that a lot of people will be coming to our area, as much as a week prior to the event. They will be looking for things to do and experience while waiting to watch the spectacle in the skies.
Michael Zeller is the owner of the website, www.greatamericaneclipse.com, and plans to visit Texas for the eclipse.
“We promote it as the best state for the eclipse mainly because of the weather, but also excellent infrastructure,” Zeller said.
The window of the eclipse starts on Monday, April 8, 2024, around 12:18 p.m., with the beginning of totality at approximately 1:36 p.m., and the window of totality ending around 2:59 p.m. CST.
During Tuesday night’s Copperas Cove city council meeting, the council directed Copperas Cove city manager Ryan Haverlah to go forward with a plan to create a project-based position, someone to coordinate the activities and logistics for how the city will handle the influx of visitors who come to the area to view the eclipse.
Haverlah told the council it’s become very evident that it is a large undertaking in terms of time and effort. He said that both the city’s Parks & Recreation director and the city’s administrative assistant/special events coordinator are very consumed with normal operations.
“This is a project that is requires a lot of coordination, not just with City team members and departments, but with the Chamber of Commerce and businesses, along with well as regional organizations to ensure that we are all coordinating on what we're doing and sharing our plans to ensure that the ingress and egress of visitors is safe, and our residents understand what the plan is so that they can be safe and that the visitors when they get here, they know where they can stay, where they can camp, what the expectations are of their visitation to our community.
Funding for this position would come from the use of hotel occupancy tax funds.
“There are over $300,000 in the available funds for hotel occupancy tax,” Haverlah told the council, adding that he did not have a specific dollar amount to present that evening.
The council came to a consensus for Haverlah to bring that information back, including the proposed temporary position, for approval and funding allocation at a future meeting.
During the August 2017 solar eclipse, other cities in the United States had hotels completely sold out, people camping on every open space to include parking lots, fields, and more. Streets turned into parking lots because as the eclipse began people would stop their cars to watch it.
Already, the city of Waco is selling tickets to McLane Stadium to view the eclipse. Hotels and RV parks locally are already advertising for spaces.
So far, a committee has been discussing how to utilize the open spaces in Copperas Cove, and where camping can and should be allowed.
Part of the plan at this point is to use the city’s public spaces, its parks, for different purposes, such as using Ogletree Gap for RV and tent camping, and Rhode Park for tent camping only. The other parks recommended for event use include South Park, High Chaparral, Kate Street and Highland Park.
A three-day festival at City Park will be in the works, starting Saturday, April 6 and going through April 8.
Another venue would be using Copperas Cove’s downtown for a vendor market, in a similar format to the annual Krist Kindl Markt.
The Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce has a webpage for the 2024 Solar Eclipse, at https://copperascove.com/2024-solar-eclipse/, which enables visitors to access links for accommodations, dining, and more. This webpage will be added to as more information becomes available and plans are made.