By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Planning for an event centered around the total eclipse that will pass over Keizer in August 2017 is beginning to stumble and time is growing short for things to begin taking shape.
That was the message from Sherrie Gottfried, a member of the Keizer Festivals Advisory Board and the volunteer coordinator of “Keizer Eclipse 2017. Totally!” Current plans call for the Keizer Parks Foundation to take over Keizer Rapids Park for the weekend preceding the Aug. 21 celestial event and provide onsite camping and activities.
“It’s not been easy so far,” said Gottfried. “I went out with Allen Barker (a candidate for Keizer City Council Position #1) to do some measuring and we came up with some ideas, but a lot of them were shot down when we presented them to the Foundation Board.”
Gottfried said one of the primary concerns is parking. In addition to outstanding questions about whether the event will need to be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, there is limited space to accommodate the parking space campers would require.
“Are cars going to park by the tents? If not, we have to shuttle them in. These are the logistics that nobody knows yet, and any (vehicle) over 5,000 pounds will damage the pathway to access parts of the camping site,” Gottfried said.
Gottfried and Barker determined there would be fewer than 50 spots available for the RVs and there would be two different dry camping sites. The cost would be $75 a night for dry camping and $135 a night for RVs with a two-night minimum. The proceeds from camping and portions of the other likely activities, like vendor food sales, would be donated to Keizer’s parks. However, the expenses related to the event are likely to be substantial, portable toilets will need to be rented and round-the-clock security will add to the total.
Gottfried was dismayed to learn that a retail vendor space was not a likelihood, and wanted to see events at the amphitheater scaled back.
She also referenced a free eclipse planning guide provided by an Australia-based eclipse consultant, Dr. Kate Russo.
Russo’s guide suggests that planning begin years in advance of an eclipse and that even six months is likely too late to start. Organizers have a little more than eight months to finalize all details and that includes prepping a large site at the park.
For the eclipse-viewing alone, Russo recommends that an astronomy expert, a science educator, a meteorologist and an eclipse-chaser all be enlisted to help with the planning, and that doesn’t include all the other facets involved with organizing a large event.
Conservative estimates suggest that as many as 30,000 to 40,000 will visit the area during the eclipse – that includes visitors from other areas of the country as well as those just to the north and south. Cities like Portland and Eugene will only experience a partial eclipse.
Gottfried stressed that she is not dissuaded from attempting to pull it off, but that she wants whatever happens to reflect positively on the city.
“There is a lot to do and no time to do it in. I want it to be good, I don’t want people to come to Keizer and have (a bad experience),” she said.