City buzzing with eclipse planningAug 8, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer
With less than two weeks until a total solar eclipse graces Riverton's skies, the city's government is finalizing plans on how it will handle the thousands of visitors that are expected to flow into Riverton and Fremont County.
Riverton is one of the Wyoming cities with the longest period of "totality" at more than two minutes. The city also could be be the center point for visitors to nearby sites that have a few seconds more of totality, including Shoshoni, Pavillion and Crowheart.
Among the most drastic changes will come to City Park, which is expected to be a major hub.
"(The park) will be a great place for people to gather and enjoy the weekend before the actual event," public works director Kyle Butterfield told the Riverton City Council last week.
Butterfield looks to block off one lane of traffic around the park's perimeter streets. Street flow would move to one-way traffic for the event, with the closed lane being used for diagonal or parallel parking for use by the numerous vendors expected to be in the park.
He said many residents who live on City Park's perimeter park their vehicles on those streets out of necessity, and it will be important to coordinate with those residents to ensure their access remains.
Butterfield said transportation, especially road conditions, is among is biggest concerns as the eclipse approaches.
The Wind River Transportation Authority plans to set aside two buses for the city to use as shuttles during the eclipse, with routes traveling from Central Wyoming College west on Main Street and north to Walmart.
Butterfield expects there will be a lot of overflow parking at Walmart. He said officials from Kmart are hoping its parking lot will not get used, but he doesn't know if they have a plan to enforce that. The Kmart store closed last year, but the property is still owned by Kmart.
Butterfield said most commercial flights around the eclipse period are booked out, and general aviation traffic is also expected to be high.
In anticipation of more private planes, airport staff plan to mow a larger area to allow for more tie-down spaces for pilot who want to either stay overnight or park temporarily.
In July, the city installed an RV dump at the airport, providing a third option along with the dumps at Buggy Bath and the city's wastewater treatment plant.
Butterfield said the city plans to put out more dumpsters with 30 more portable restrooms distributed throughout town, with six at City Park, three at the airport, two at Jaycee Park and two at Sunset Park.
The city also publish a .kmz file that is downloadable for Google Earth and will show the locations of those dumpsters, toilets and other amenities.
Councilman Mike Bailey asked whether extra dumpsters also could be placed at high-traffic businesses.
Butterfield said, however, that the city needs to keep all extra dumpsters in public spaces to ensure "we're equitable and fair to all business owners."
The city will also be putting an emphasis on "beautification and recovery," Butterfield said.
To that end, there will be regular street sweeping, with Main Street's garbage bins emptied at 4 a.m. each day.
"We want to spruce up our public spaces as much as possible," he said.
City not ideal viewing
Those responsible for marketing the eclipse had originally hoped that streetlights, which are triggered by a dark sky, could be turned off during the eclipse.
Butterfield said, however, that Rocky Mountain Power has indicated it could turn off some "decorative lights" but not the main streetlights.
"That would be too burdensome for them," he said.
Because of the increased light pollution, Butterfield said that "downtown Riverton might not be the best spot" for those looking for prime conditions for eclipse viewing.
Burden on local people
Interim city administrator Courtney Bohlender said Butterfield deserves praise for taking on a lot of eclipse duties during the past year.
"He has exceeded the amount of time that we had expected we'd need to put in for an event like this," Bohlender said.
She said local people need to be prepared that the influx of visitors will impede the ability to travel and access basic goods.
"If you think you can go from Smith's to City Hall in seven minutes like I usually do, that's not going to happen," she said. "We don't know if our cell phone use is going to be dependable."
She urges residents to "gas up and buy your groceries ahead of time."
Bohlender said the best approach to the stress is to "stay calm and enjoy this great event."
"Practice patience, be positive and help whenever you can by giving good information," she said. "Let's embrace the people who are coming to our city."