I'm a frequent critic of the town I've lived in or near for 36 years, Salem. Us cynical old-timers like to call it, So-Lame.
Compared to Portland, Corvallis, Eugene, Ashland, Bend, and other Oregon cities with a lot more creativity, energy, coolness, and vision.
Annie Gorski, project manager for the City of Salem, showed slides of what the bridge will look like. Way cool! Something I don't often say about Salem. She hopes the bridge will be lighted with the seasons. Me too.
It was great to hear Salem city manager Linda Norris say that the mayor and city council want the pedestrian bridge to be an eye-opening WOW! vision for residents and visitors.
During the Q & A part of the meeting luncheon meeting a man criticized the bridge's expense and design, arguing that it would be better to have a rustic-looking no-frills wood plank bridge cross the Willamette slough.
Bad idea. Why not have something beautiful rather than plain?
A bridge that draws people to the riverfront from afar with those arches, which Gorski said is a unique design. They look like twin moutain peaks to me. Well, also like nicely shaped breasts. Either way, the arches are appealing.
Along with the lengthy new trail (near center of photo above) that will lead from the island end of the bridge to existing Minto Brown trails. This will make my longboard land paddling on Minto Brown Island a lot more appealing.
The new trails will total about 5000 feet, almost a mile. That's great.
Because they'll be new, the trails will be (I assume) smooth asphalt. Heaven-on-earth for longboarders, skateboarders, roller bladers, people with walkers, kids learning to ride a push-scooter, and others who have problems with the current Minto Brown trails -- most of which are highly cracked, rough, and bent out of shape in various ways.
Believe me, I know. I've become addicted to longboard land paddling. My usual Minto Brown Island route is five to seven miles. It's a heck of a lot easier and safer to roll along on the smooth surface trails, which unfortunately are a minority at the rural'ish park.
So I plan to contribute to Friends of Two Bridges, headed up by Hazel Patton. The bridge/trail project is getting close to securing the needed $9 million or so. If some grants come through later this year, construction could start in 2014.
And maybe even be finished in the same year. Sooner the better.
Downtown Salem needs the Minto Brown bridge. It's going to link Minto Brown, Riverfront, and Wallace Marine parks into an interconnected 20 mile trail system. Soon that will be 30 miles, with connections to Bush Park, Willamette University, and other downtown areas.
Russ Beaton, City Club president, and the speakers noted the economic development benefits of the bridge. It will make living downtown (currently only about a 100 people do) much more attractive, along with making it easy for park visitors to head downtown for food, drink, and whatever.
After the meeting I told Gorski that aging baby boomers like my wife and me want to stay active and be close to nature when/if we decide to leave our non-easy-care houses for a simpler lifestyle. An urban community, planned or otherwise, will look much better to us if it is close to trails and natural areas.
The bridge will bring 1200 acres of mostly unspoiled Minto Brown Island land within 300 feet of downtown Salem once it is built. That will be a big draw for residents and visitors alike. It was noted that bicycling and running organizations are going to love the bridge.
A Salem marathon would be big business. And run through a beautiful Minto Brown setting.
All in all, I came away from the meeting much impressed. Gorski, Norris, and Patton are three highly competent women who are doing a great job with this project. Listening to them made me think, "Maybe Salem finally is poised to be the city cynics like me have been wishing for, but doubt could ever happen."
After the meeting I couldn't resist heading to Minto Brown Island Park, since my longboard, land paddle, and protective gear were in my car -- as they almost always are. I put in five enjoyable miles on the trails, mostly rain-free.
Minto Brown is a marvelous Salem city asset. When the pedestrian bridge opens, many more people are going to be able to enjoy it.
(A carless woman noted that currently bicycling to the park requires a lengthy ride down River Road, even though the park is only a short ways from downtown; she's excited about the bridge.)