Everyone I talked to around South Park during my recent visits had some emotions about the imminent loss of the bridge, which will be permanently closed on Wednesday. It felt as if they were already in mourning.
At Loretta’s Northwesterner, a pub known for tasty burgers and a cool ambiance, bartender Nancy Nguyen said the street leading up to the bridge was dug up and redone just last year. New asphalt was put in and trees were planted. “Now it feels like they did it for nothing. It’s going to be a road to nowhere.”
Bill Pease stopped for lunch while I was still at Loretta’s. Pease, who’s lived in the neighborhood for ten years, turned out to be a great source. He is the president of the South Park Bridge Committee, a neighborhood group that has been lobbying for funding for a new bridge for six years.
Pease showed the least emotion of everyone I talked to, perhaps because he still needs a cool mindset to take his lobbying efforts to the finish line. “I’m guardedly optimistic,” he said about the community securing the $131 million in funding needed for a new bridge. As of today, $70 million are in the pot thanks to Wednesday’s $20 million pledge by the state.
Despite the cool demeanor, it’s clear that Pease will be doing his own share of grieving too when the bridge closes on Wednesday. He is helping to organize a wake to mark its final day in operation. “At 6:59 p.m. we’ll have a moment of silence. We hope to have bagpipers at each side of the bridge and once the bridge is up we hope to have a New Orleans-style funeral jazz band playing.”
Juanita Rivera used to work at the County Line, a popular tavern near the bridge that closed last year. Now she’s the cook at Providence Regina House, a local food bank where she was busy preparing breakfast for a group of senior citizens about to arrive.
Rivera said the bridge closure is really going to hurt the businesses. “We are going to be a ghost town.”
Carmel Lindsey said she was really shocked when she learned a few months ago that the bridge had to be closed. “It makes me sad because it’s been there since I was a little girl,” she said, adding that driving around is going to be a waste of gas and take more time. “It cuts the community off,” she said.
“We don’t need more parks, we need a freaking bridge,” said Patty, a newcomer to the neighborhood who preferred not to give a last name. She didn’t think they would close the bridge and doesn’t believe it is unsafe. “They’ve been saying that for years.”
About this series
The South Park Bridge is set to shut down Wednesday night, and a replacement could be years away. I spent three days sketching around the neighborhood and these are some of the scenes I captured:
–South Park neighborhood prepares to lose its bridge
–Time to get around the bridge
June 25, 2010 at 2:03 PM