In late August 2017 a total solar eclipse of the sun will be made its way across the United States. This is a significant astronomical and scientific event, as well as a tourist attraction. Directly on the center line of the eclipse’s path is our hometown! When the eclipse hit our city at 11:42am, we will be cloaked in complete darkness for 2 minutes and 26 seconds and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees.
Let me start by saying that the eclipse is really exciting to me. To be able to witness such a rare, natural phenomenon from our front yard is a once in a lifetime experience. In fact, it has been 38 years since a total solar eclipse was visible in the lower 48, and 99 years since an eclipse has crossed the US from coast to coast. And, I also have a feeling of excitement with the fact that people will be coming from all over the world to witness this spectacle! We are considered one of the best spots to view this event in the country, making our town the host community for the international convention. All this will be historic! Generally, we don’t get a ton of visitors so it will be nice to have the tourism experience come to us for once, and let’s face it, our struggling economy could use the financial boost that tourism brings too. Our community of about 60,000 boasts mountains, lakes, rivers, vast plains, and a small, cultured city’s atmosphere. We also have a great deal of history to share ranging from dinosaur remains to the Pony Express. Sharing our history alongside our current lifestyles will be an important opportunity for our community. Restaurants and business owners are finalizing plans, festivals and events are in place, and every single hotel is sold out! Heck, even our house is rented out! This will be such a fun weekend and such an amazing event. I can hardly wait!!
But, did I mention this event scared the bejesus out of me as far as sustainable tourism is concerned? Did I mention somewhere around 60,000 people were anticipated to ascend on our city in the days leading up to the eclipse, and even more the day of? This means that for the first time ever, our city more than double din size over a four day period. While this post will focus on the concerns I have for the challenges this community will face, many of these points are applicable and should be considered in a variety of viewing locations across the country.
Here are 6 reasons why the 2017 eclipse scared me and what eclipse watchers and chasers can learn from it,
1. Fire danger. Because hotels were sold out in many of the prime destinations on the center line, visitors are now being encouraged to camp. Generally, this isn’t a problem, except some camping accommodations are being established in some unconventional places. Added to this is the fact that not every campsite can be monitored 24/7, especially those on private land. For those who will be camping, it is really important to consider that this will happen in August; one of the driest, hottest months of the year.
What can you do about this? Find out what fire restrictions are in place and follow them. Most places will put burn bans in effect. Do not start fires! If you are in one of the center line cities, there will be plenty going on day and night that will keep you occupied, so no need to tell camp stories and roast marshmallows by the fire. If you happen to be in an area that does allow fires, make sure it is properly extinguished. And, do not throw burning cigarette butts out of car windows! Fire danger is real.
2.Community resources. Think about your city doubling in size in just a few day’s time, for the first time EVER. Would your city be able to handle that? I’m concerned about the impact this will have on our public works department, our water processing and electricity, and even on the city streets. One prime spot to view the eclipse happens to be near a building where I work, however the plumbing in that building is not capable of handling the 2,000 people that are expected to use the facilities in one day. And, every port-a-potty in town is already rented out.
What can you do about this? Take public transportation whenever possible to ease congestion on roads and reduce emissions. Walk or bike when possible too. Turn off lights and adjust the thermostat prior to leaving your hotel room.
3. Trampling vegetation. As people explore the area they are visiting and try to find the best spot to catch the eclipse, they will wander off established trails and trample vegetation. I know this sounds minimal, but trust me this is a huge negative impact that mass tourism has on the environment across the world. Even as an example aside from the eclipse, think of the damage that was done this past summer when tourists left the walkway and walked across Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone.
What can you do about this? Stay on established trails. Period.
4. Trash. Events of this nature generate a lot of trash. Think of the flyers, maps, cups, disposable plates, schedules, decorations, plastic bags, beer cans, and everything else that goes into coordinating large scale events and festivals.
What can you do about this? Find out if the city you are visiting has an app and/or website for their events instead of picking up paper event guides. The more paper you can reduce, the better. Bring your own reusable bag to put things in, as well as a reusable bottle. Recycle where you can.
5. Interaction with wildlife. Much like trampling vegetation, interaction with wildlife is also detrimental. It seems there are more than enough examples in the news lately of tourists trying to get selfies with animals, being mauled by bears, putting babies in cars, etc. These types of interactions are harmful if not fatal to humans and animals. I also have a great deal of concern surrounding the negative impact the influx of people and cars will have in terms of wildlife interactions on the road.
What can you do about this? Learn about animals in the area you are visiting and what to do in the event you encounter one. Would you know what to do if you ran across a mountain lion or a bear? What about a rattlesnake? Being properly prepared and staying in established areas will help lessen your chance of running into a wild animal. And, if you happen to see an amazing creature, admire and photograph it from a safe distance. Do not approach them! If you are driving in areas like Wyoming, keep alert to your surroundings. Not only can they dart across the plains and onto highways at high speeds (55 miles per hour for antelope), but it is also common for pronghorn antelope, deer, and other animals to be on the side of the roads, even in city limits.
6. Limited emergency services. Considering everything I mentioned above, it is also important to note that everything must be managed with the resources we already have. Local police and fire departments, as well as ambulance services cannot provide additional staff without the necessary funds to pay for them.
What can you do about this? Be a good visitor. Don’t break the law. Don’t start a fire. Don’t request emergency assistance unless it is a true emergency. Be safe when participating in water related activities. Drive cautiously. Use common sense. This is the time where we practice common courtesy and help each other out.
Again, I must reiterate that I’m very excited about this eclipse, but I also have some very valid concerns. As with any place you visit, try to leave the area better than you found it. I believe that by working together, we can make this experience safe and memorable as the eclipse sweeps across the country and shows us all how spectacular a natural phenomenon like this can really be!
Did you travel somewhere to watch the total solar eclipse in 2017? Do you have questions about this event or something cool to share? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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Thank you for this thoughtful post. All of your concerns are entirely valid and all of us who will be traveling to the path of totality in 2017 must remember that we are guests and must behave appropriately.
Wow! Thank you so much for reading my post, commenting and following me on Twitter! Feeling honored by all this!
Very good article. I would hazard to guess most visitors have not given a thought to the impact this event will produce on our city/county/state. Enjoyed your article immensely. Hopefully, it will help reduce some of the impact of this event.
Thanks for reading! I’m hoping to bring some awareness about this amazing occurrence and how to enjoy it with minimal negative impacts!
Thank you for sharing your valid concerns. Great tips on what the tourist can do to not start fires and to leave no footprints. We all need to take these concerns and use them in all our travels. I am happy to have tourist to your town (which is noted to be the place to watch the eclipse) to help boost the economy. Thanks for shaing!
Thanks for commenting! Yes, the event will be great for our town and many new businesses and restaurants are in the works anticipating this once in a lifetime event!
This is a very informative and though out post and not just for people watching the Eclipse, but for anyone who intends to attend a big event. All it takes is a little thought as some people don’t realise what they are doing, others carry on regardless and don’t appreciate that every individual makes a difference! Your ideas are brilliant so thank you for bringing this to people’s attention, fingers crossed they adhere to the advice and you all have an amazing day watching this natural phenomenon!
I will be trying to share this post a lot over the next several months to get the word out there! Any time we travel, we should always be mindful of the impact our actions may have.
I remember reading this last week and going “oh man … there’s an eclipse next year?!” Color me surprised. I wonder why I hadn’t heard of this earlier. Anyways, you make some excellent points, and I hope people take responsibility as they flood your town to see this incredible phenomenon. I know I’d be super stressed out over the increased tourism and burden it puts on the citizens there… Hopefully, people see information like the points in this post and take it to heart! Our fingers are crossed for you, and we hope you enjoy the eclipse safely and happily!
You guys will have to take a road trip to see it! I’m sure there’s a center line city somewhere nearby!
It is a concern with any large event, unfortunately a lot of visitors do not act responsibly which is a real shame. This post is full of excellent information and I hope you get to enjoy this amazing experience with out too many issues. Thanks for sharing 🙂
So glad you enjoyed the post! Hopefully posting this in my little space of the blogosphere will help remind people to be responsible.
It will be an exciting time for sure and it’s great it’s in your backyard so to speak. Some tourist don’t give a second thought about their surroundings and how to be respectful so that is always an issue. But, I think most will be responsible without interruptions. Thanks for bringing this to peoples attention. Have fun and can’t wait to read the post on it!
It will be such a great opportunity! And, visitors can take a lesson from this event for all of their other travel interactions too!
This is going to be a once in a lifetime event Jenn, so cool! I can totally understand your concerns about the impact of a swell of people will have on the environment and your hometown. Here’s hoping that it all goes smoothly and you can enjoy that 2 minutes and 26 seconds of awesomeness!
It’s going to be great! Super excited!
This is a very thought provoking post and you have made valid concerns. I hope that people will be respectful of their surroundings and it will be less disruptive than anticipated. I do hope you enjoy the eclipse and you take some photos and post them for us 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it – thanks for reading! I’ll be sure to get some photos and videos!!
A very important post which highlights the benefits and pitfalls of tourism. While events like the eclipse will have a huge positive impact on the economy of communities like yours, it will come with many dangers. It all depends on how well the authorities deal with the influx of visitors and how responsible the tourists are. I genuinely hope that this results in only good things for you and your town and region!
Tourism certainly is an industry of good and bad, isn’t it? It will be interesting to see what happens…
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