In just a little more than three months, thousands will converge on Oregon to witness the total eclipse of the sun. It promises to be quite the boost to our economy. Except, probably, for me. I’ve offered my guestroom, my yard, my driveway, my sofa, my floor to any number of friends near and far. Gratis, of course. And then realizing that someone might actually take me up on it, I decided I’d better buy a couple extra pair of safety glasses. They were pretty pricey, which I found surprising, but I didn’t question it. No sense in messing with your eyesight. They arrived in a fairly thick package. Turns out I had bought not four pairs of glasses but four sets of five. Yep, 20 pairs of eclipse viewing glasses. I thought I should try to send them back, but then the hubs and I agreed, we might as well hang on to them and we could hand them out to neighbors. Actually, I also thought there might be a shortage of the glasses and I could make a mint selling mine.
I’m hearing all kinds of stories about how people are cashing in – viewing parties, festivals, brew fests, 5 and 10k runs, even a campsite auction. The latter was announced by the Oregon State Parks Foundation earlier this month. On May 12, they’ll open bids for 30 campsites, four nights each at the Crooked River Campground in Cove Palisades State Park in central Oregon. I admit I didn’t know anything about the Foundation, but as it turns out it’s the only statewide nonprofit partner of the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department and it exists pretty much solely to “preserve and enhance Oregon State Parks.” I also didn’t realize that the Parks department isn’t funded through tax dollars, but counts on the lottery, user fees and portions of registration fees for recreational vehicles and ATVs for its funding. So yes, this is definitely a good cause. And, given that state park campsites in the zone of totality were sold out an hour after reservations opened; and 1,100 additional sites went in less than two hours, I am expecting bids could go quite high.
The campsites to be auctioned are in the zone of totality just south of the central line. Only members of the Oregon State Parks Foundation can bid, but that’s easy enough to accomplish if you pay your $25 dues by May 12. Do that, and the Foundation will send you a link to bid. For more details, go to www.oregonstateparksfoundation.org and check out the solar eclipse link. You can also buy eclipse memorabilia through a link on the site.
Of course, while the opportunity to make lots of money is welcome, the prospect of our coastal towns swelling to god-only-knows how big is more than a little worrisome. So much so, that some local communities haven’t committed to doing anything.
“I keep talking to my membership that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, let’s jump on the bandwagon,” said Lori Arce-Torres, executive director of the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce. “I say, ‘Seize the opportunity.’ But everybody keeps saying we don’t want more people.”
I’m guessing it’s not that people are unwanted so much as the potential for problems they may bring.
“How do we identify everything that could happen?” said Arce-Torres. “No cell service. Brown outs. What if the gas stations run out of gas? What if the banks run out of cash? It’s all worst-case scenarios. We don’t know. That’s part of the problem. We just don’t know.”
In Lincoln County, where the county fair occurs the weekend before the Monday eclipse, government agencies have been planning for months how to address potential public safety issues.
“We’re trying to foresee every eventuality,” said Commissioner Bill Hall. “What if we are full of people and everyone wakes up and finds it’s a coastal summer day where we have the heavy inflow of fog and everyone says we’ve got to get to some place where it is sunny? We’re just not sure what to expect.”
One thing they do know to expect is that people will need eclipse safety glasses. To that end, the county, partnering with several other jurisdictions, has laid in a stock of 75,000 pairs. Which means, as you might have already guessed, that odds are good I will be stuck with 18 pairs of unused eclipse safety glasses.
Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.