Town gears up for April 8 solar eclipse with unprecedented preparations

The Town of Fort Erie is leaving nothing to chance when a rare astrological event occurs over Fort Erie’s skies next month.

In a report to council, staff outlined the preparations they’re taking ahead of the April 8 solar eclipse that will pass over Niagara.

“Some town staff have been participating in meetings since late 2022 and all of 2023 and continue into 2024 with regional partners, emergency personnel, OPP, NRPS, MTO border services, Niagara Parks and others to make plans to manage any emergencies that might come up over the weekend leading up to the event and the day of,” a presentation to council at the March 4 meeting read.

According to the report, staff expect traffic to be the biggest issue, as they are anticipating anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million visitors to Niagara Region to witness the eclipse.

Staff will be enacting the Town’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) beginning on April 5 to prepare for eclipse day. Town hall will be closed on April 8 to allow staff to focus their attention on EOC operations.

They predict the town’s population could double or even triple on the day of the eclipse and Niagara Parks is bringing in 450 students to view the event at Old Fort Erie.

As such, the Town is asking residents to stay as close to home as possible to reduce traffic. Residents are also being asked to have a 72-hour emergency preparedness kit on hand in case of emergency.

With expected traffic issues come expected parking problems, and the staff report said enforcement will be in full effect come the eclipse day.

They’ll also have portable toilets and wash stations ready to be deployed.

Staff have created a list of preferred public viewing areas, which include:

  • Bay Beach
  • Bertie Centennial Park (Ferndale Park)
  • Optimist Family Youth Park
  • Crystal Ridge Park
  • Waverly Beach
  • Stevensville Memorial Hall
  • Fort Erie Leisureplex (Parking)

The rest of the Leisureplex will be closed to the public and used as parking for town staff, emergency services, and media staging.

Town staff have also identified some private areas where people are likely to gather, and pointed out three areas that will be closed or restricted. They include:

  • Point Abino Road South at Erie Road (only local traffic will be allowed through);
  • Crystal Beach Waterfront Park. Ridgeway Road will be closed at Crystal Beach Drive (just before the Millington Skyway) and closed at the intersection of Crystal Beach Drive and Lake Avenue (only local traffic will be allowed through);
  • The boat ramp at Crystal Beach Waterfront Park will be closed to ensure Fort Erie Fire Department has access for any potential water rescue. Town staff are asking people to stay off the water to minimize possible hazards.

Roads around fire halls, the hospital, and other key areas may also be closed or restricted.

Canada Border Services will block pedestrian traffic going to the U.S. over the Peace Bridge and the Niagara Parks Commission will close a portion of Niagara Parkway, between Central Avenue and the traffic circle at the Old Fort, beginning at noon.

A fire ban will be in place from April 5 to April 9.

For more information on the Town’s plans for eclipse day, visit forterie.ca/eclipse.

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