Casper has dramatically scaled back downtown parking restrictions during the Wyoming Eclipse Festival in August.
Police originally planned to close 30 blocks in the city core to on-street parking to increase access for emergency vehicles. That plan has now been scrapped in favor of closing just Second Street to all east-west traffic between Oak Street and Park Street and perhaps restricting access to the other streets surrounding David Street Station.
Traffic will still be able to cross Second Street traveling north and south.
“There’d essentially be no restriction to downtown parking,” Sgt. Scott Jones told City Council on Tuesday.
Parking will also be barred along David Street in front of the Hall of Justice and City Hall to allow space for vehicles belonging to out-of-town law enforcement in Casper to help with the festival.
About 35,000 visitors are expected between Aug. 18 and 21.
Jones said that the original plan to bar parking in most of downtown would have crowded residential neighborhoods nearby. That plan restricted parking roughly between A Street to the north, Fifth Street to the south, Park Street to the east and Spruce Street to the west, while also closing Second Street to east-west traffic.
Despite police removing the other restrictions, Downtown Development Authority officials, who are overseeing the plaza’s operation, requested that David and Ash streets on either side of the plaza be closed to traffic for pedestrian safety.
“It would allow people to freely go back and forth across the street to access things going on near the David Street Station,” Jones said.
The David Street Station has hired its first employee as the downtown plaza readies to partially open in time for the August eclipse. The project came within 5 percent of its full funding goal earlier this week and plans to open the western half of the plaza on Aug. 15.
But police spokesman Det. John Hatcher said on Friday those closures were still tentative and that as of now the only confirmed street closure is Second Street.
City Council agreed to grant Interim Police Chief Steve Schulz the authority to close any streets or intersections as necessary for safety during the eclipse festivities. Jones said that, along with the ability to stage equipment needed to close streets, was important because it was impossible to predict exactly where choke points and traffic problems would emerge during the festival.
“At some point in time it may become necessary to add further barricades,” Jones said.
Councilman and former police chief Chris Walsh gave his hearty blessing to Jones’ request.
“You know what you’re doing,” he said. “Don’t worry about our approval on stopping anything else that becomes a problem.”
City Attorney Bill Luben said Casper’s parking regulations would be amended by a simple vote of Council to allow Schulz to close additional streets.
While the Casper Police Department has not requested additional officers from other jurisdictions, employees will be barred from taking vacation during the festival, and special patrols have been created for officers on bicycle downtown and at special events.
Hatcher noted that plans are subject to change as the festival moves closer.
As the August solar eclipse approaches, Casper police are preparing to manage tens of thousands of visitors coming for the weekend festival.