In the cold drizzle of last November 29, a hardy bunch of civic leaders posed with shovels in the heart of Old Town to mark the ground-breaking for the Siuslaw River Bridge Interpretive Site on the last undeveloped riverfront site. The crowd was small and, afterwards, dispersed quickly to get warm.
Fast forward seven months to June 28, a warm sunny day where the completed Siuslaw River Bridge Interpretive Site was dedicated. There were words of thank you by Mayor Nola Xavier to those involved in making it a reality and a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony involving the Florence Ambassadors.
There was also a prominently displayed celebratory cake. The warm weather brought out quite a crowd of residents as well as tourists caught up in the excitement.
After the ceremony, the crowd hung around in small groups chatting, eating cake, taking pictures of the bridge, and checking out all aspects of the new riverfront park. Some walked along the new concrete walkway to the deck with about the best view of the Siuslaw River Bridge in all of Old Town.
Others sat on benches and at small tables. Still others enjoyed another walkway past a storm-water treatment swale filled with decorative gravel and hardy plants. The benches and tables with seats are situated for folks to sit and relax, picnic, or just enjoy the view. Still to come are the interpretive panels to be inserted in the sign supports. In addition to the riverfront park, parking spaces have been added under the bridge along with more benches and interpretive signs.
This project has been in the works for about 12 years and at one time included an interpretive center under the bridge and park-like improvements on both ends. Much of the original plan was discarded over the years due to budget cuts, but the city—in particular City Manager Jacque Betz––didn’t let it die. In 2008, a scaled down version for an interpretive wayside became the new plan.
The city kept in touch with the landowners and when the money was available to buy this last undeveloped piece of Old Town waterfront, negotiations resumed and were completed in November 2010. This was where things stood when I finished writing Crossings that fall. After the book had been sent to the publisher, I received word from Jacque about the sale and sent in the changes regarding those final negotiations, so they could be added. That way, the book could end on a high note.
Well, the Siuslaw River Bridge Interpretive Site is now a reality. Besides Jacque Betz’s persistence, the riverfront park represents a partnership between the city, ODOT, and the Federal Highway Administration.
I saw lots of familiar faces, including Dick Smith and his wife, Harriet. Dick and I particularly enjoyed the festivities, after all, we consider the Siuslaw River Bridge ours.
Note: On Wednesday evening (July 3), I opened my e-mail to find the following message:
I am pleased to inform you that your proposal, Around Florence, has been approved. We are delighted that we can anticipate adding your book to Arcadia’s list of titles in our Images of America series, and we look forward to working with you in the coming months.
My deadline is November 12, 2013, so for the next few months, I will be one busy gal! So be careful what you wish for; you just might get it!