PRINEVILLE, OR -- As we get closer to the August 21st solar eclipse, local officials are getting a better idea of just how many people are expected to converge on the region. Organizers of a rural Crook County festival have asked to revise their permit to allow up to 30,000 people; that's more than the county’s current population.
County Judge Seth Crawford says the original permit for Symbiosis: Oregon Eclipse was approved some time ago, allowing 15,000 people at Big Summit Prairie, about an hour east of Prineville. The court will take up the issue again at their April 19th meeting. "We’re gathering information and we need to make sure that things are going to be done right, and they’re taking care of the waste, and they don’t leave a bunch of garbage, and that they have the right infrastructure and medical, and everything that makes sure that they have a great time and that people are safe." He tells KBND News there are a lot of things to consider, "One of the positive things I see about this is having all of these people in one location, where we know where they are and we can work with somebody that’s running the operation to be able to have a conversation, have a point person and have somebody to set up these services. When they’re more dispersed, there’s less ability to control the decisions they’re making, good or bad." He also likes that it's a ticketed event, allowing some control over the crowd, "It’s a no re-entry event. So, you need to go there and stay there for the entire event; when you leave, you leave for good. So, we don’t have a bunch of traffic going on all over the roads, so I think that will help a lot."
The request has drawn criticism from some, who say that’s too many people in the Ochocos at one time. Crawford says much of the opposition is from outside Crook County. "I haven’t heard a lot of local people be really worried about it. I’ve heard of people, maybe in the region. I’m not saying there’s nobody inside [Crook County], I just haven’t heard anybody very vocal, locally." He adds, "We’re not talking about the public lands where the general public gets to decide what goes on there. And, I think it’s really important that we realize that when people own property, they have certain things that they’re allowed to do on their property."
Regional community leaders estimate the solar eclipse could draw up to half a million people to the High Desert.