Salem to allow camping in parks on night before eclipse

125,000 expected in Salem for eclipse

SALEM, Ore. -- If you still need a place to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, you might think about Bush Park in Salem, or one of the 12 other parks in the city.

City leaders decided to open parks up for sleepovers the night before the eclipse at no charge.

“That’s why we’re doing a lot of this advanced information, letting people know that you can stay in the parks and letting them know what we’d like them to do while they are in the parks. Really what we are working toward is voluntary compliance,” said Salem Police Lt. Dave Okada.

Tents, sleeping bags and blankets will be allowed in the park. Fires, digging pits or RVs and cars on the grass will not be permitted.

Some who live in Salem have no idea that 125,000 people could be coming to this town of 170,000.

“From where?” asked a startled Patrick Rutland on a downtown sidewalk. He was told, everywhere. “Really? Oh wow that’s gonna be crazy. There’s gonna be so much people here!” he said.

But like many who live in Oregon’s capital city, he's still excited.

“It’s gonna be awesome. Everything will be dark. Yeah its gonna be fun,” Rutland said.

City leaders say they'll spread resources around Salem and activate an emergency response center if needed over the eclipse weekend.

Wayne McFarlin, Emergency Preparedness Administrator for Salem Health, says Salem’s hospital will have three big tents up and ready should large numbers of patients show up during the eclipse.

The hospital is also staffing up its emergency room. And as patients cancel or reschedule elective procedures to avoid the eclipse traffic, McFarlin said the hospital will shift workers from those areas to others with more demand. 

One of the biggest problems will likely be traffic. Residents already dread the potential gridlock.

“I think that’s going to be a lot on the traffic situation and being able to get over the bridge. I live in west Salem so that’s gonna make it really hard for some of us to get around,” said Tasha Hobbs.

Some workers may take the day off Monday, which could help traffic a bit.

“I’ve heard a lot of businesses are either going to be closed for the day or not open until after the eclipse, so that will be good. The families can enjoy the eclipse together,” said Gary VanAntwerp.

Travel Salem reports 95 percent of hotel rooms in the area are booked.

The city of Salem is promoting one main website where it will put out eclipse related information. You can find it here.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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