Tourism commissioners raise concern about eclipse plans

By BY MARY GARRISON MINYARD Contributing writer

Commissioners for the Cadiz-Trigg County Tourist and Convention Commission are looking into the possibilities for the total solar eclipse anticipated to take place Aug. 21.

NASA scientists have calculated the geographic location at which the point of greatest duration will take place -- just outside Hopkinsville -- and officials have since estimated anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 eclipse viewers could visit the region in the days leading up to the event. However, commissioners expressed concern during a Thursday board meeting that Trigg County may be falling behind in planning efforts to accommodate the numbers of potential visitors to the area.

Commissioner Mallory Lawrence said she felt it was necessary to provide entertainment for those visiting and expressed concern that surrounding communities were ahead of the game.

"In my opinion, if they're coming ... we need to make an impression, a good impression, on people," Lawrence said. "And if we have nothing, that's not a very good impression in my opinion. ... We all need to be working together -- the county, the city, Tourism -- to try to figure out some things to do. Hopkinsville is, we're choking on their heel dust, I'm just going to tell you. And there's no excuse for it."

Tourism Executive Director Bill Stevens said while he intended to host music downtown in the days leading up to the event, many of the events in Hopkinsville and surrounding areas were the result of private business owners planning events of their own in conjunction with the eclipse.

"There's not been a whole lot of people stepping up in wanting to do activities," Stevens said. "When you look at Hopkinsville, most everything that's activity related, other than the festival, is some business doing something. You know, it's a facility that they have. ... I wanted to do music, at least somewhere downtown on at least the Sunday night from our Tourist Commission point of view.

Commissioner Greg Batts suggested coordinating existing events, such as the Cadiz Cruz-In, to take place the weekend before the eclipse rather than regularly scheduled times. Local artists and churches, too, could prove beneficial in boosting offerings.

"These artists, they always want to do something. They could put something together and do a show down there," Batts said. "Do a Sunday show or a Monday show. Maybe we could get the churches to do some kind of ... maybe each day to have some stuff downtown. You know, have a big multi-dimensional church service or have them bring in some gospel music one day or something like that on a Sunday."

Stevens said he would continue to work with city and county officials in hopes of offering more activities for eclipse viewers. In the meantime, Stevens said Tourism was working to identify public viewing areas to which staff could direct viewers in the area. As of Monday in Trigg County, viewing areas identified included Trigg County Recreation Complex, Trigg County High School parking lots and football field, Prizer Point, Fenton lake access in Land Between the Lakes and Lake Barkley State Resort Park.

Park Manager David Miller said staff had determined to open the beach for public viewing. Staff will use the areas at the pavilion, picnic areas and parking as far as the beach. However, no boat launching will be permitted during eclipse day, due to safety concerns, he said.

"We're only going to allow in what we can park," Miller said. "Just because the last thing I want is 1,300 cars trying to get in and out at the same time and some type of emergency going on. So we're counting our spots, and we'll have a counter, and go from there.

"Register guests at the campground, marina guests as far as a few who have slip rentals, but we will be not allowing people to drop off," Miller added. "We're not necessarily closing the park, but we're going to let it get to full capacity and then we're going to be telling people that ... we're at capacity."