With port-a-potties and sleepovers in parks, Salem plans for deluge of eclipse visitors

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Authorities predict the population in the Salem area could double with the influx of visitors for the Aug. 21 eclipse.

On Monday, city officials talked about plans to deal with the deluge of tourists, which will include letting people "sleep over" in city parks.

But authorities said they don't want people camping.

Setting campfires and parking RVs and other vehicles on the grass at parks will not be allowed. People will also be banned from camping in parking lots.

Colleen and Kevin Shinn, of Dallas, and nine of their grandkids were out enjoying the sunshine at Riverfront Park in downtown Salem on Monday.

They each live in the path of totality of the eclipse and said they plan to enjoy it from home.

"I think it's gonna be fun," said 8-year-old Jacob Briggs, one of the couple's grandchildren. "I'm gonna get to have a campout in my backyard."

But visitors won't have that luxury.

And Mike Gotterba, the emergency preparedness and communications manager for Salem's public works department, predicts between a quarter-million and a half-million people will visit the city and the surrounding area.

"We don't know what's gonna happen. We don't know exactly how many people are gonna come," said Gotterba, "but we're going to be prepared to the very best of our ability."

City leaders said at Riverfront Park a private group is planning an event the weekend before the eclipse, which will happen on a Monday. They said they'll keep 50 port-a-potties out there and the city will help keep them clean.

At other parks, two dozen extra port-a-potties will be made available and possibly more if outside groups bring them in.

"There's 13 parks that we're gonna be staffing continually through the weekend," explained Gottterba, saying people should be prepared in case stores run low on supplies. "I would plan ahead for food, water, fuel and probably most important -- know where you're gonna go. Are you gonna stay home? Or if you're gonna go to a location plan ahead, go early, stay there a little while and leave no trace when you're done."

Police said officers will be out in full force as well.

"We've canceled all future vacation requests," said Lt. Dave Okada of the Salem Police Department. "We're focusing on having as many available bodies to us that day."

The goal, authorities said, is for everyone to have a fun, safe time.

Elliott Shinn, Colleen and Kevin's 7-year-old grandson, said he's excited "because I finally get to see (my) first eclipse."

To stay safe, health officials recommend only viewing the eclipse through special glasses.

The city of Salem has set up this web page, where you can get updated in formation on eclipse preparations and conditions.

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