Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Greenway Bridge: It's Ugly, But It's Finally Up

Crowd awaits the dedication of the new greenway bridge.^

Christina Koomen shoots video of Mayor David Bowers, who couldn't shut up.^

The inevitable baby carriages bring up the rear as pedestrians cross bridge.^

Pedestrians and bikers wait for the bridge to open.^

Mayor David Bowers points the way ... to something ... the bridge is behind him.^

Long line of celebrants makes its way to the food tent.^

Here's the bridge: judge for yourself whether it's the ugliest structure in Roanoke.^

OK, so forget for a moment that the new Roanoke Valley Greenway bridge over the Roanoke River in Wasena Park is one of the monumentally ugly structures of all time. Even more impressive than its level of Army Corps of Engineers Standard Issue design is its price tag of $1 million (half of which the Corps paid, apparently so Roanoke would let it be the designer).

In any case, the bridge linking Vic Thomas Park with the greenway proper is finally complete and the bikers, hikers and double-wide baby carriages can now add another few hundred yards to their exercise routine on the way to what Mayor David Bowers promises will soon be an 11-mile stretch all the way to the Water Treatment Plant in the east and unspoken points west of Memorial Ave.

The bridge was built in the flood plane where water towered 20 feet over where it now sits in 1985, says Bowers. "I'm glad we have a solid, sturdy bridge here," he said when asked why it was so ugly. Liz Belcher, who is the Goddess of the Greenway, explains that "the Corps of Engineers designed it" with a shrug. It is, she says, "part of the flood control project and it is just above the flood level" of 100-year floods.

Artist Eric Fitzpatrick, who was sketching the dedication proceedings at 12:30, smiled when he was asked about aesthetics. "I just love boxy," he smiled.

The bridge leads to what had been an often-flooded trailer park for many years and is now a pretty park named for a former General Assembly member, Vic Thomas, who championed both the outdoors and the common man. When he left the General Assembly about 20 years ago, he left these words, "Don't forget them that don't have nothing." Vic was a humanitarian, not a grammarian, but this sentiment is as elegant as anything ever said by any politician anywhere.


  1. $1M for that? I wish I had more to say, but at the moment, I'm speechless.

  2. jack and i are going to go check out the ugly bridge tom and seek out that extra 100 yards of greenway.

  3. It does seem a bit dischordant. It's not spectacular, but it's okay. However, it doesn't look like its worth $1M. Officials ought to have better justification for that. "Job security for someone's brother-in-law" is a phrase I heard uttered recently at an over-built airport. Perhaps something like that is going on here.

    The ugliest structure in Roanoke, in my opinion, is the abominable bus stop at Patrick Henry High.

  4. Ugly? I dont get it. It ain't an architectural or aesthetic marvel by any means, but it reminds me very much of train river crossings all over the state and I think it fits. Haven't been down there in person but the photos, I think, look fine. I like the antique feel of those bridges, and this one seems in line with that.

    Maybe it's uglier in person. What did you want, a modernist structure like Hotel Roanoke? A covered bridge? Seriously, I don't love it but I am surprised top hear it described as the ugliest structure in Roanoke