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Coming in 2017: Solar eclipse, President Trump, boats and new bridges

Coming in 2017: Spectacular views of Puget Sound from elevated bike and pedestrian bridge

Metro Parks Tacoma projects will remake access from downtown Tacoma to Point Defiance Park and provide "incredible" views of Puget Sound.
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Metro Parks Tacoma projects will remake access from downtown Tacoma to Point Defiance Park and provide "incredible" views of Puget Sound.

No more presidential campaigning.

That’s about the only definitive thing we can say about 2017.

We polished off the crystal ball and came up with five milestones you either won’t want to miss or will want to ignore, or will just have to live with in 2017.

Most are the work of humans, but one from Mother Nature will definitely get tongues wagging.

SOLAR ECLIPSE

The biggest celestial event in history (for anyone under 37) will occur on the morning of Aug. 21.

That’s when a total solar eclipse will cut across the United States.

We’re talking a chickens-going-home-to-roost, stars-coming-out type of eclipse.

The bad news: You’ll have to go to Oregon to see it in “totality.”

That’s what astronomer types call the region of the Earth that plunges into nearly complete darkness when the sun is totally obscured by the moon.

Here in the South Sound, about 94 percent of the sun will be covered. Astronomers call that the penumbra.

We call it a partial solar eclipse. They’re better than nothing, but the difference between a total and partial solar eclipse is night and day.

Literally.

What’s so great about a total solar eclipse? Besides the novelty of day turning to night, you’ll get to see the sun’s corona — the flaming, colorful atmosphere that surrounds it is visible only when the moon completely covers the sun’s disc.

The folks at greatamericaneclipse.com say, “You will involuntarily scream, gasp, or perhaps cry at this astounding vision.” We can’t verify that will happen, but we’re sure it will leave few unimpressed.

Even if you are in the 67-mile-wide band of totality, you aren’t guaranteed to see much of anything if the weather isn’t clear. That’s why many folks are headed to Eastern Oregon — where the weather has a better chance of being clear.

In ancient times, total solar eclipses would cause our ancestors to panic.

Expect the same in August, when there will be a panic for hotel rooms, camping spots, photography equipment and viewing filters.

For Pacific Northwesterners, the last total solar eclipse was Feb. 26, 1979.

If you make the trip to Oregon (or Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska), don’t expect a long show. Totality will last two minutes. Consider it a 500-mile round-trip to hear half a Beyoncé song.

INAUGURATION DAY

As the country debates whether the Electoral College should be burned at the stake or is the best idea the founding fathers ever had, planning continues for the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C.

“Let’s set the all time record!” the president-elect tweeted in December.

But it’s hard to say how many of those who show up will be supporters and how many will be protesters.

At the Capitol, construction is underway on the 10,000-square-foot platform that Trump will stand on as he takes the oath of office. It will hold more than 1,600 people, including Trump’s family, former presidents, the Supreme Court, Cabinet members and nominees, members of Congress, governors and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Locally, the party will begin Jan. 19, when the South Sound Ronald Reagan Republican Club holds a pre-inauguration celebration dinner at Great American Casino.

Organizers are calling it, “An evening of celebration for all our work and election of Donald J. Trump our 45th President of The United States.”

Planning also continues for what might be called the alt-inauguration.

Several peace-themed groups are teaming up to present the “Counter-Inaugural Bawl Ball” at the Asian Pacific Cultural Center on South Tacoma Way.

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution,” says the flier for the event.

THE BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE

Some call it the missing link — the stretch of pedestrian and bike pathway that’s missing between Point Defiance Park and the Ruston Way waterfront.

Come this fall, those two segments will be joined in spectacular fashion.

An 18-foot-wide, 590-foot-long bridge will offer spectacular views of Puget Sound as it crosses the opening of a new boat trailer parking lot and ferry terminal lanes.

The bridge will jut out at two points, offering views from Mount Rainier to Vashon Island.

On the park side, the bridge will aim itself at the rose garden. On the southeastern side, it will connect with a path that points at the Point Ruston development.

Next to the 50-foot-high bridge will be a set of slides from the hillside to the waterfront.

Yes, slides, just like the kind you used in kindergarten. Built into the hillside, they will get pedestrians to the waterfront in a matter of seconds.

For those who prefer a more grownup descent, there will be steps nearby.

The newly developed area on the way to Point Ruston will be planted with prairie grasses and shrubs.

Adding to Point Defiance’s new look will be a roundabout at the Pearl Street entrance to the park. Anyone entering the park there knows the “Do I go? No, you go. Wait … who goes?” intersection can be confusing.

Metro Parks Tacoma will build the roundabout with the help of $2.5 million from the state Department of Transportation. Construction, beginning in spring, will occur in phases. It should be complete in summer.

FESTIVAL OF SAIL

Ever wondered what a 1800s-era naval invasion would have looked like?

You’ll get a chance to find out June 15-18 during the Festival of Sail in Tacoma.

The event is a reiteration of the tall ships festivals that enthralled hundreds of thousands of spectators along Tacoma’s waterfront in 2005 and 2008.

Local organizers have spent the last two years working on the 2017 event.

Headlining the ship roster so far are the twin brigantines belonging to the Los Angeles Maritime Institute. The 110-foot wooden boats, the Irving Johnson and the Exy Johnson, are the official tall ships of Los Angeles.

Also appearing is the 80-foot schooner Freda B from San Francisco Bay. It’ll be bringing a load of California wine.

Grays Harbor is sending local favorites Lady Washington and her sister ship, the Hawaiian Chieftain, to the festival.

As in years past, a Parade of Sail will open the Tacoma festival on June 15. The highly visual event musters all of the participating vessels into one long line of ships sailing from Vashon Island into Tacoma. It’s a photographer’s dream.

Ships will tie up along the Foss Waterway from the Museum of Glass to Thea’s Park. The festival will allow would-be sailors to crew — or just sail on — some of the ships.

FREEWAY PROJECTS

Two major highway projects are set to begin in March.

One will connect the carpool lanes on state Route 16 to those being built on Interstate 5 in Tacoma. The other will add an auxiliary lane on northbound I-5 between Mounts Road and Center Drive in south Pierce County.

Both, according to Transportation Department, are aimed at easing long-term congestion, but traffic impacts (read miserable driving conditions) are expected during the construction phase.

The $217 million carpool project will see construction of HOV bridges and ramps over Nalley Valley, as well as rebuilding and realigning northbound and southbound I-5 approaching state Route 16.

That work is expected to last for about five years, according to the Transportation Department.

State officials said the new lane from Mounts Road to Center Drive will help ease traffic jams from the Nisqually River into the Joint Base Lewis-McChord corridor.

That work should be finished by summer.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

Eclipse resources

General information: greatamericaneclipse.com

Weather: eclipsophile.com

Inauguration of Donald Trump

When: Jan. 20

Where: Televised on most major networks

Info: bit.ly/2hraRRT

Republican Pre-Inaugural Dinner

When: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 19

Where: Great American Casino, 10117 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood

Cost: $22

Information: bit.ly/2i9tgVO or 253-350-3490

Counter-Inaugural Bawl Ball

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 21

Where: Asian Pacific Cultural Center, 4851 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma

Cost: $10

Protest Trump and his Pierce County Posse

What: Protest hosted by the Pierce County Young Democrats

When: 5-6:30 p.m. Jan. 20

Where: University of Puget Sound

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