March 18, 2013 10:16:14 AM
Our 'Bridge to Nowhere'
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Columbus might want to flatter a community in the Berkshires of Massachusetts for our own benefit. In fact we share many things with Shelburne Falls. We both have an interesting history, a pretty and viable downtown, we host visitors throughout the year, we have an active arts community and a downtown Visitors Center, along with and interesting shops and coffee houses for browsing and relaxing. Perhaps most importantly, we have a river that runs within walking distance of downtown and now, a planned pedestrian bridge crossing the river.
Once used for commerce, both the similar-sized Deerfield and Tombigbee rivers have outlived that original purpose where they meet the town's riverbank. We have used our assets and built the popular Riverwalk and soccer fields, a definite boon for local recreation, as well as created an entertainment venue with the concert stage sheltered by the old Hwy. 82 bridge. Shelburne Falls used their river and bridge to attract locals, but also visitors to their pretty community and enhanced their attractiveness in the process.
Some in Columbus grumble about the cost of the bridge restoration, calling it "a bridge to nowhere." Perhaps they have a point if the bridge becomes nothing more than a walking span, a platform to look down upon the flowing river or another enhanced fishing spot. But if we were to look to Shelburne Falls, maybe we could see it for its possibilities as a wonderful asset and something that could put Columbus on the map.
Shelburne Falls took their old trolley bridge, built in 1908, and converted it in 1984 to a "Bridge of Flowers." From the humble idea of a local businessman who started a fundraising drive in a effort to enhance his community and a local businesswoman, who for 30 years became the Bridge's "gardener," they created an attraction that now draws in 15,000 visitors a year with more than 20,000 people walking the span during the April to October season. The economic impact has kept Shelburne Falls alive and created a destination for visitors from all over New England.
The wisteria draped bridge is maintained by a paid gardener and an assistant along with volunteers from gardening clubs and interested community members. Although there is no admission, "Bird House" donation boxes are stationed at either end of the bridge for monetary support. Although their narrow bridge resembles a garden pathway, our wider and stronger bridge has even more possibilities. Gatherings such as plant sales, craft fairs and art walks can be held there in a garden setting and with the concert stage below, we have untold possibilities for offering many unique events. To get a scope of the possibilities please visit http://www.bridgeofflowersmass.org or just search "Bridge of Flowers" on the Internet. Our "bridge to nowhere" can becomes another focal point and help Columbus maintain its unique charm as an attractive and viable place of interest in the South.