Usually the Grant County Gazette
is directed at outside visitors but this week's gazette is for local residents who are thinking about offering accommodations for the solar eclipse in August. It is a work in progress and I will leave it up and update it as I get new information between now and August 21st so if I do not answer your question today, check back later.
The first question of course, is: "How much could I make?" Since this is a one time event, there is no established rate. The city of John Day is offering 20'x20' campsites for $150 for the week and RV parking slots for $450 for the week. At those rates and assuming you would leave 20% of the ground clear for access, campsites are worth $12000/acre and RVs $10800/acre. If you offer campimg sites, do not forget to allow for parking space which will depend on whether your guests come by bicycle, motorcycle or Silverado.
At the other end of the scale, Symbiosis the Gathering
is offering a mass camp out near Big Summit Prairie. They will be offering a various levels of food, lodging and entertainment throughout the week. Their fee structure is too complex to describe here, but I estimate that you would be doing well to attend for less than $2000/person. Another local rancher is offering 4 days camping, a catered dinner, a talk by an eclipse expert and two continental breakfasts for $450/person. Of course you do not want to leave money on the table but it is not good to be greedy either. I suggest taking the city of John Day's offer as a starting point and adjust up or down according to how your offer compares with theirs. Bear in mind that if you charge top dollar, people will expect first class service while if your prices are moderate expectations will be less exacting.
The Grant County Planning Department has determined that they will not require any kind of permits for gatherings of less than 3000 people. The Grant County Chamber of Commerce, which is responsible for collecting transient room tax is going to waive the tax for anyone who does not ordinarily rent lodgings and is only renting for the eclipse. The Chamber is also offering a matchmaking service which connects people offering accommodations and people seeking accommodations. The chamber charges vendors a flat $50 fee regardless of how many spaces or for how many days the space is offered. If you want to list, call 541-575-0547.
I received the following from John Combs of the Grant County Health Department:
"As far as the temporary food goes, that does fall under my jurisdiction. If there are food vendors that are licensed in another county (a mobile food unit for example), I am just trying to see a copy of their license and a copy of their previous inspection. I will not be charging or inspecting these types of facilities. For temporary food vendors not licensed elsewhere, I have attached a copy of aTemporary Restaurant License Application
and a copy of the Temporary Restaurant Guidelines
. The application would need to be filled out and returned to me prior to the event. There is a fee of $63.00 for the Temp License. The requirements for a Temporary Food Vendor are pretty well explained in the Temp Guidelines, but you can always call or email me with any questions. I cover Grant, Harney & Wheeler counties, so I am not in the office much. The best way to reach me is my cell phone, that number is 541-620-0965."
On the topic of fire safety, I have this from the Grant County Firewise coordinator: During the eclipse event no open fires will be allowed in Grant County. All campers (tents, RVs,etc.) are strongly encouraged to have a 5 gallon bucket full of water at each site. Proper access for emergency vehicles is imperative. Landowners are responsible for knowing and contacting the appropriate agency that provides fire suppression services to their property. Dayville Fire (541) 987-2188 -- Canyon City Fire (541) 575-0509 -- Granite Fire (541) 755-5100 -- John Day Fire (541) 575-1855 -- Monument Fire (541) 934-2025 -- Mt. Vernon Fire (541) 932-4688 -- Prairie City Fire (541) 820-3524 -- John Day Interagency Dispatch Center (USFS and ODF) (541) 575-1321. Private lands under the jurisdiction of Oregon Department of Forestry will be in regulated closure:see here
Regarding insurance, you should start with your existing insurer to see if you are covered or if not, see if you can add coverage through your existing policy. If this is not possible, you will have to shop around. If you can't find anything local, you can contact me and I can get a list of event insurers from Travel Oregon.
Sanitation will be a problem. Porta-potties are going to be very hard to come by. The Chamber of Commerce had some reserved but those are already gone. The existing blackwater dump stations will not be able to handle the demand that weekend. When I know more about what will be required and what is possible, I will post it here.
It is impossible to forecast how many people will show up but it will be more than we have ever seen before. It probably will not be quite as extreme as some of these pictures in this Gazette
but there is no way to know for certain. All the existing temporary lodging is booked and when the state parks open a park for reservations it is filled in less than an hour. Even if you are not planning on taking guests, but especially if you are, you will need to prepare. If you have fuel storage on your property you should top it up before that weekend. It will be August and if you can stockpile ice, you should. We may double our population or more that weekend so food, water and everything else may be in short supply as well. In most cases our roads do not have alternate routes and they will be filled to capacity. Any breakdown or accident will slow traffic to a crawl or worse. Do not plan on going anywhere on the morning of Aug 21st. Make sure that your guests have a spot within walking distance where they have a clear view of the sun at 10am.
In spite of all the potential problems, this is a marvelous once in a lifetime opportunity. It will bring people from all over the world who are willing to make a special effort to see one of nature's wonders. There are unknowns and challenges but there is also an opportunity to get acquainted with some very interesting people who you would never meet otherwise. And, on the practical side, you stand to make a lot more money than you would with a third cutting of alfalfa.