Live music played non-stop through the afternoon. The Red Pennys, led by Robert MacDonald, kicked things off with rousing old country, honky tonk and roadhouse rhythm and riffs. Then the Nelsonians and Nelson Hiller offered a couple sets of classic bluegrass. Winding things up both figuratively and literally, Mark Cutler and the Men of Great Courage (abetted by an honorary "Man" on violin) played till the sun began to set.
Big Nazo river trolls, aggrieved at being dispossessed from their home under the I-195 bridge, showed up looking for the pedestrian bridge under which to take up residence. Homeless for years, they got right into the spirit of things with a crowd also in search of the pedestrian bridge.
Some might point out that the venue looked like a construction site. And they're right: on work days, it's the staging area for the earth moving machines, cranes, pile drivers and trailers full of precast pieces of concrete for the new parking garage and the National Grid Switchgear building going up on Dyer Street.
All that construction activity points up the urgency of getting the pedestrian bridge underway.
South Street Landing is on schedule to open for the fall 2017 semester. At that point, a dead power plant will come to a new life, filled with student nurses and faculty from R.I.C. and U.R.I. and administrators from Brown U. Due to (avoidable) delays, the pedestrian bridge won't make that deadline. But when completed, in 2018, it will be a vital link across the river and a key selling point for further development in the I-195 parcels and adjacent vacant land.
Long delayed, back-burnered, ignored, funding-threatened, sneak attacked by a much-reviled baseball park scheme — the pedestrian bridge and its park have been going nowhere. Despite the mandate that park and bridge were part of the deal with the Federal to fund the massive I-Way relocation project. Regardless of continual questions and pressure from the JDA and other interested parties. Nothing was happening.
As the afternoon progressed, a rumor spread: RIDOT had put the pedestrian bridge out for bids the day before! Was it the impending pressure of all those people planning a party on the park site? (See previous post.)
Building Bridges was formed to bring public attention to this wasted public resource. More activities are being planned for the summer, as the Building Bridges group, Olin Thompson, Dr. Tim Empkie, Sharon Steele, Brian Heller, Ethan Gyles, Don Nguyen, Anne Bergeron and volunteers keep the pressure on.