Eclipse path spotlights National Parks, homestead stories

Total eclipse covers 29 National Parks

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

Mark Engler, superintendent of Homestead National Monument of America on Aug. 19, 2017 a few days before the total eclipse.

BEATRICE, Ne. - When President Lincoln sign the Homestead Act in 1862 giving settlers 160 acres of public land as an incentive to move out west the homesteaders weren't planning to build their homes along the path of totality of a solar eclipse.

But for many that's just where they are.

The descendants of the original homesteads are reaping the benefit of living along the path of totality for the first total solar eclipse for a majority of the U.S. in 99 years.

Just like the 30 homestead states, the Great American Eclipse is connecting people from South Carolina to Oregon.

"This eclipse is very special because it goes from coast to coast," Mark Engler, superintendent of Homestead National Monument of America said."Within that narrow band of totality sits homestead National monument and we are on that center line."

The Planetary Society and National Parks Service partnered up to educate the public about the eclipse though a junior ranger program and a special weekend of events at Homestead, including a visit from Planetary Society CEO and "Science Guy" Bill Nye.

"It's a great way for kids to learn abut space it's a great way for kids to learn about the eclipse and it's also a fun activity," Engler said.

More science communicators like NASA JPL Astrophysicist Amy J Mainzer of the PBS Kids show Ready Jet Go! will also be speaking the day of the eclipse.

For those visiting Homestead National Monument for the first time, Engler recommends they should find out if their home state is part of the homesteading story. Engler said he and the parks staff like to share the history of all 30 states with homesteads.

Today there an an estimated 93 million descendants of the original homesteading families who settled in the U.S.

"Maybe, people are surprised that they likely are or very well could be," Engler said of possible homestead relatives.

On any given August day more than 1 million people visit National Parks, with the eclipse crossing more than 20 of the parks officials are preparing for record crowds.

"Being able to view the eclipse from parks in the National Park system is another reminder of the value of the special places set aside for preservation and enjoyment," National Park Service Deputy Associate Director of Science and Stewardship Brian Carlstorm said.

Copyright 2017 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.