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Ohio state parks plan for big crowds for April 8 eclipse. Officials say come early

The Lake Erie lighthouse at Headlands Beach State Park, one of the Ohio state parks on the path of totality.
Crystal Cogswell
The Lake Erie lighthouse at Headlands Beach State Park, one of the Ohio state parks on the path of totality.

Park officials are expecting state parks to be filled to capacity on April 8, when a total solar eclipse will be visible from parts of Ohio.

Ohio Park officials are planning for an influx of visitors with half a million people estimated to travel to the state to watch the eclipse.

State parks will be open to day visitors beginning at 6 a.m.

“Come as early as you can to get your spot, and then stay a little later after the eclipse because the traffic is going to be pretty busy,” said Lindsay Deering, an administrator at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Campsite reservations were still available at some state parks in the path of totality, according to the ODNR. But overnight campers can not arrive on the day of the eclipse.

“In order to minimize the amount of traffic and campers coming in and out during the actual eclipse day, we have made it so that you have to check in April 7 or sooner and check out April 9 or later,” said Deering. “This is simply to reduce the number of cars and vehicles that are on our campground roads.”

The parks have emergency measures in place if crowds become overwhelming, Deering said.

“Though we hope we don’t get to that point, we do have emergency locations where people can sleep,” she said. “Our officers are prepared, we will have extra staff where we can... help people get in and out safely, but worst-case scenario, we will make sure that people have a place to sleep so that they can get home safely the next day.”

Headlands Beach State Park, Geneva State Park and Findlay State Park will provide some of the best views of the eclipse in Northeast Ohio, Deering said.

“We know that we’re going to have a lot of people that have not experienced our parks before, and we’re really excited to share our parks with them,” she said, “but we absolutely have to make sure that everyone is prepared for the day.”

Janson McNair is an intern at Ideastream Public Media