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How small towns like Indian Lake are preparing for the April 8 solar eclipse

Main Street in Indian Lake.
J. Stephen Conn
Creative Commons
Main Street in Indian Lake.

The April 8 solar eclipse is just weeks away, and that means that towns and villages across the North Country are revving up their preparations for the event.

They’re also trying to be proactive about safety, traffic, and other things that could go wrong.

Christine Pouch is the town of Indian Lake’s Economic Development, Marketing and Events Manager. That means she's on ‘eclipse duty.’ The day I spoke with her on the phone, Pouch had just received a delivery of trash cans and fielded a call from a potential eclipse visitor from a man in Schenectady.

"His first question was: where is the best spot for me to watch the eclipse and be close to a restroom?'" said Pouch.

That's a genuine concern, because Pouch says Indian Lake only has four public restrooms, plus two in the local Stewart's.

But Pouch has it covered. She's been prepping for April 8 for a while now.

“The very first thing I did was order twenty porta-potties,” Pouch said.

She said it’s all about the three Ts: toilets, trash, and traffic.

Traffic is a particularly important one, because there aren’t that many roads in the Adirondacks, and from the south, there are limited ways of getting into the tri-lake area of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake. That's where a lot of big eclipse events are scheduled, and where hotels have been booked out for months.

"There’s either I-87 that goes right up the corridor and passes by all the small little communities," said Pouch. Or people will take what she called 'the back roads', of Routes 28 and 30, popular from "points south like Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany."

The 'back roads' route goes right through Indian Lake, and there are very few detours. "Once you get on that road, that's sort of it," said Pouch. "Basically, you’re on that road until you get there [to Tupper Lake]."

So, while Pouch has no idea how many people will be in Indian Lake for the eclipse itself (she’s hoping no more than 5,000, because usually their largest crowds are for 2,000 person festivals in September) she’s pretty sure that plenty of folks will be driving through Indian Lake, both pre- and post- eclipse.

To prepare, she said the town is designating parking areas in local church parking lots, hoping to avoid people parking on the road and making things even more congested.

"We don’t have on-street parking in our town. If people park on both sides of the road, instead of having two lanes coming and going there’s only going to be one lane being able to go down the main street," explained Pouch.

She’s also trying to be prepared for traffic jams, for bad weather, for car crashes — for anything that could lead to unexpected visitors on April 8.

"There could be people stuck in traffic and realize they’re not going to make it to their destination, and my hope is that when they turn around, they'll find that they have activities to accommodate them in Indian Lake," said Pouch.

She said the town has designated ideal eclipse ‘viewing areas’ around town. It’s also designed maps of the town’s layout that will be available at the Indian Lake Welcome Center.

Pouch said an artisan fair is planned for Saturday and Sunday, and the town and chamber of commerce are putting together a slate of events and public parties for locals and visitors to attend on Monday.

And she's got about twenty local volunteers set to act as eclipse ‘ambassadors’ the day of, "who will be on site, at the viewing locations, wearing orange vests with our town logo on them. So when people have questions and and need answers they know where to go and we can help them," said Pouch, to get to "a food truck or a restaurant or get medical attention if they need it."

Safety is Pouch’s top concern. There is a health clinic in Indian Lake, but they’re an isolated community, and about a 25-minute drive from the closest pharmacy and grocery store in North Creek.

Pouch said they've been advising Indian Lake residents to not schedule critical travel, like doctor’s appointments, on the days around the eclipse. She said they're also telling residents, "Make sure your car is full of gas, make sure you have ample groceries. Just make sure that in any case of any kind of emergency, you’re good at home."

Preparing for every scenario is difficult, but it’s the task in front of pretty much every North Country community right now.