Woodstock prepares for astronomical influx of visitors to view total eclipse

by | Apr 4, 2024

Mayor said detailed plans in place to handle potentially 10,000 visitors to a municipality of 12,000 residents

As Woodstock prepares for the influx of visitors hoping to join residents at the centre of the sun’s total eclipse on Monday afternoon, April 8, town officials encourage everyone to expect the unexpected. 

Just like being on the path of the total eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so are the logistics needed to meet the unique challenges associated with such a phenomenon. 

Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones praised the efforts of an eclipse logistics group formed last year to prepare for the celestial event. Still, she admitted even the best-laid plans couldn’t deal with every scenario. 

“It’s hard to prepare for an event that we have no idea how many are going to come to our community to witness,” Jones said during remarks at the March 26 council meeting, “so we are preparing for the worst-case scenario numbers.”

She said the group estimates as many as 10,000 visitors to the Woodstock area, with potentially similar numbers in neighbouring communities of Hartland and Florenceville-Bristol. 

Even with multiple plans to minimize impact, the mayor urged residents to prepare early, enjoy the opportunity and exercise patience. 

She also praised the efforts of the planning group headed by Woodstock Police Force Deputy Chief Mark Bennett.

Jones said the group, which held its final meeting in late March, has an extensive plan. The group, which includes town representatives, has met regularly over the past several months with EMO, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, Brunway, other regional municipalities, CBSA, the RCMP, the Woodstock Police Force, the Sheriff’s Office, and other groups monitoring traffic and safety. 

Coun. Norm Brown echoed the mayor’s praise, expressing special kudos for the efforts of the Woodstock Police Force and the RCMP. 

“Of all the areas, we are the best organized in the province,” he said. 

Coun. Julie Williams-Calhoun, who represents the council on the Eclipse committee, said Woodstock Police Chief Gary Forward’s force recognized the challenge immediately when approached eight months earlier. 

She said the chief “was shocked” with what to expect and assigned Deputy Chief Bennett to take charge of preparations. 

“They’ve done an incredible job,” she said.  

Jones and Calhoun-Williams stressed the importance of preparing for the day and maximizing the many opportunities to enjoy the historical event. 

Jones explained that the town mailed out a detailed brochure outlining crucial information to all town addresses, adding that the brochure is available on several online sites, including the town and Woodstock Police Force’s web and social media pages. 

The brochure offers detailed information about road closures and traffic patterns, tips, highway information, special viewing times and locations, and other types of eclipse-related issues. 

A town also created a second brochure outlining the long list of special events during Eclipse Weekend, April 6, 7, and 8. The brochure is available online and at the AYR Motor Centre and the Woodstock Town Hall. 

As she has on several occasions over the last few months, Jones again stressed the importance of not looking directly at the eclipse but using only approved glasses. While supplies last, these glasses are available at the AYR Motor Centre, town hall, and the L.P. Fisher Public Library. 

Jones and the brochures stress the importance of patience during the weekend, especially on eclipse day. 

“Expect congestion, expect traffic delays and ensure you plan your day in advance,” she said. 

The brochures’ safety tips urge anyone travelling to watch the eclipse to prepare properly for delays by packing food, drinks, medications, and a folding chair. They also advise residents to dress accordingly, noting temperatures could drop by 10 degrees Celsius during the eclipse. 

Woodstock will host special viewing areas from 2 to 6 p.m. in Downtown Woodstock, AYR Motor Centre and the Meduxnekeag Consolidated School. Jones and Calhoun-Williams said people should get there early and play to stay late.

Calhoun-Williams added that anyone planning to attend other eclipse events may want to reconsider using Woodstock’s viewing areas, especially the AYR Motor Centre and downtown. 

Williams-Calhoun and Jones also explained that traffic congestion and road closures on April 8 would affect businesses, urging them to learn the details and make adjustments. 

The Anglophone-West School District announced schools would close before noon on Monday, but several people, including Calhoun-Williams and Coun. Will Belyea, question why school isn’t closed for the day. 

While traffic congestion is expected to peak at 2 p.m., Belyea expressed concern that it threatens to hinder bus traffic well before that. He also noted that the school staff’s full day will end in the heart of the eclipse window. 

Woodstock announced numerous street adjustments to deal with traffic flows on April 8. To ease congestion around the downtown viewing area, the town made traffic changes.

Traffic changes:

— Water St. Closed to through traffic at both ends (Connell and Main) before p.m

— Main Street, Southbound at Connell Street, closed

— Downtown Meduxnekeag Bridge Closed

— King St. and Bicentennial Parking lot at King St. are closed to parking on April 7 at midnight

— Wellington St. between King  and Harvey Streets closed

— Smith Street at NBCC closed Northbound\

— Connell Street will be open to thru traffic, with a left turn only at Main Street. 

As parking lots fill, expect the following secondary closures:

— Queen St. at Main St.

— Broadway at Park St. Eastbound

— Saint Gertrude at Main St.

Meduxnekeag Consolidated School

— Traffic will be one direction from the Bull Road entrance, exiting only through Ironwood Drive.

— Parking will only be allowed on the right-hand side of Bull Road.

PARKING LOTS OPEN

— NBCC

— Parking Lot adjacent to the Woodstock Farm Market on Carleton Street

— All Parking Lots off Queen and Carleton Streets

AYR Motor Centre

— Upper Parking Lot ONLY

— Y’s Men’s Club Parking Lot

—  Woodstock High School Parking Lots

For road conditions, click the map

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