Celebration Cements Community

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Two female friends — raised and schooled in Naples, and now retired and wintering ‘away’ — braved this nation’s airports to return to their town of origin for Friday’s festivities.

Judy Macdonald and Marilyn Broadhead booked their plane trips north earlier than usual so they could be in town in time for the Bay of Naples Bridge ribbon-cutting ceremony.

That afternoon as temperatures tipped in at 70 degrees with a really pleasant lake breeze, Macdonald sported a patriotic outfit that might have been saved for Fourth of July revelries.

But, Macdonald’s special occasion clothes were freshly unpacked from her suitcase because she had been determined not to miss mid-May’s opening of the new bridge.

“I just got in last night,” Macdonald said as she exchanged yet another happy ‘Hello!’ with locals who knew her.

West of the two women, a crowd of a few thousand people gathered on the concrete arch bridge for the first time ever. Behind the multitude, water sprayed both forcefully and gracefully into the sky. That theatrical element showcased the newly installed fire suppression pipes.

“I usually come home in June,” Macdonald said. “I flew up earlier ‘cause I’ll never see another one. I’ll never see another bridge built here.”

She recalled the small-town gathering when construction was completed on the Swing Bridge in 1954.

“Oh, it was nothing like this,” she smiled, turning her attention to the vintage cars crossing over that rickety sea-foam-green bridge.

“My nieces (Debbie Hansen and Connie Eldridge) kept bugging me to come home for this,” she said, adding that relatives provided her with the details of every ceremonious activity planned for the ribbon-cutting day.

Macdonald said the moment she made up her mind to attend the bridge unveiling, she phoned her longtime friend, Marilyn Broadhead, who has a home in Arizona. From there, the two women sealed their plans.

During the ceremony, the two friends were among a handful of people who took the walk (or jog or run) back down to the old bridge to see up close the first parade of vehicles that passed over it. Then, they hiked back up to the new bridge to be there for the onset of the parade of wheeled wonders that began with a 2012 azure-colored jeep. Macdonald was particularly excited because a relative of hers was among the people seated in that picture perfect automobile.

Both women agreed how nice it was to see all their old friends again — all in one place.

“This is nice,” Macdonald said, waving at another face from a familiar community, and smiling broadly.

CRC Chairman Bob Neault predicted that one (plenty of smiles) when he provided his speech as part the official opening.

“Today, you will see lots of smiling faces,” Neault said.

“When you look out across Long Lake and Brandy Pond, you will know how much thought and work went into that bridge and the Causeway,” he said.

Friday brought with it an interval in which to bask in the glory of a new bridge. It was also an opportunity to commemorate the collaboration between citizens, the state transportation department, and the general contractors and subcontractors that made the project what it was.

State Representative Rich Cebra said in his speech that one recent morning, he had been sipping his morning tea and glancing over bridge notes he had written. He found himself surprised that his memorabilia of paperwork dated back to 2006 — when those discussions about funding the project first began.

“We have done a phenomenal thing for the Lakes Region,” he said, adding that every person involved should be proud of the part they played in the project. But, the real pride, he said, was the finished product that people were beholding and standing upon.

Then, Cebra sent an invitation out to the crowd who had heeded his words before he had even articulated them, “Enjoy this beautiful day on your new bridge.”

The concrete arch bridge, which was designed by MDOT Engineer Jeff Folsom, has an 80-foot span and offers boaters a 12.2-foot by 30-foot passage as well as providing landlubbers with a 15-foot wide walkway under the bridge with an eight ft. clearance.

According to MDOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce A. Van Note, in a statement that he most likely meant figuratively as well as literally, the Bay of Naples Bridge “is something bigger than yourself.”

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