Mention the word bridge to most tourists and their eyes light up. The Thames, Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges have drawn free-spending tourists for years although the Brooklyn is up for sale and may soon go private.
Wars have been waged over mere bridges such as Thermopylae and The Bridge Over The River Kwai, which are so hard to find that they can only be viewed by guided tour since most tourists don’t know which continent they’re on.
Even Galloping Gertie down in Oregon drew hordes of tourists just to watch it self destruct and more recently the Skagit River Bridge on I-5 in northern Wash. made national news when it stopped “accepting” northbound tourists.
Alaska tourism took a big jump when the Bridge to Nowhere was proposed and the Ketchikan city tour still stops to show folks where it might have been. The big laugh up there is that it didn’t cost taxpayers a single cent, so we’re catching on.
At this point astute readers may be thinking, “Hey, all those famous bridges have names while we are stuck on ‘the wooden bridge’ and since most tourist-friendly wooden bridges except Golden are in New England, we may be sending valuable tourists in the wrong direction.
We can’t name our bridge for a generous politician who bravely steered our tax dollars to its construction because we now know that there are to be no tax dollars involved (well, maybe someone else’s but not ours).
Let’s come together as a community and choose a name for our bridge that tells global tourists exactly what their trip to the Comox Valley has in store — The Bridge To The Other Side.
As is often the case, this would probably be shortened to a nickname, like The Far Side Bridge but so what, at least it avoids a divisive and time consuming “name that bridge” contest.
Now tourists from Medicine Hat and points east will have peace of mind knowing they can access Fifth Street or the lumber yard via just a short stroll over the bridge.
And think of tourists from Ucluelet or Asia who can plan in advance to park downtown and be steps away from a swimming pool or the Courtenay Hotel (oops, I forgot — but maybe a replacement would draw tourists).
Taxpayers are sure to pocket big bucks when bridge painting is turned over to graffiti artists and let no one doubt their tenacity for the job as they have been known to paint entire railroad trains — overnight — both sides, a feat that dazzles scientists to this day. Bet they’ll even find a way to paint the underside to the delight of kayakers.
Here is where City council can really shine.
First, enact a bylaw requiring all graffiti paint to be purchased locally (think the 100 Mile Diet), then immediately ban the sale of all unwanted colours. Simple yet foolproof.
Young people will find employment in the many souvenir stands sure to crop up. Picture a T-shirt saying I’ve been to the Far Side, while miniature bridge replicas could revitalize our timber industry.
It’s inevitable the new bridge would become the finish line for the Ducky 500 and Rotarians will just have to retrain their ducks to paddle a bit further.
With that settled, we should get on with deciding how much the bridge toll would be and whether the required new east and west parking lots should be public or privately owned and operated.
Maybe a feasibility study is in order. I’ll do it for $17,000.