Pedestrian bridge offers quiet respite

by Joe Carlson

Poised above the reflecting waters of the Mississippi River, the East River Flats pedestrian bridge rests in a quiet enclave hidden down in the river gorge, away from urban bustle.
Set about 300 feet beneath the Franklin Avenue bridge, the raised walkway offers strollers a settling atmosphere of solitude along the eastern bank of Minneapolis’ main waterway.
Although people have been walking across the bridge for about a year, the official ribbon-cutting ceremony is Saturday at 1 p.m. The event will follow a Mississippi clean-up activity beginning at 9:30 a.m. planned by local neighborhood organizations.
There will be live music and free food at East River Flats park during the event, which will last until about 3 p.m. In addition, the University’s Raptor Center will release two red-tail hawks from the park.
The raised walkway is the final piece in a pathway connecting the park behind the University with East Sand Flats park south of Franklin Avenue.
A scenic overlook and stairway, which descends the river gorge bluff down to the path, was built just south of Franklin Avenue with $350,000 from the Prospect Park neighborhood association, said former association president Tom Kilton.
The raised walkway over the river was constructed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation as part of a deal with the Minneapolis Park Board. The department built the pedestrian bridge in exchange for park land which was used to expand Interstate 94.
“It was a great collaboration of the neighborhoods and various governmental agencies,” Kilton said.
But the hard facts surrounding the construction of the walkway are of little consequence to lovers walking hand-in-hand between the bridge’s brown metal handrails.
“I figured we’d take a little walk … and enjoy some of the scenery you don’t get to see everyday,” said Brad Piermantier who was walking Thursday with girlfriend Karen Tobler.
The couple, who met almost two years ago on a blind date, are freshmen at the University. Although neither had been on the bridge before Thursday, they said they would return.
Others, such as University employee Scott Kysylyczyn, seek the walkway’s solitude more frequently.
“I’ve been down here every day since I started working here two months ago,” he said, walking with co-worker Joanne Albrecht. Both work in Boynton Health Service at the University, he as a computer systems administrator and she as a senior office assistant in the medical records department.
She said the stillness of the scenery around the bridge reminded her of her home back in Wisconsin and was a good place to get away from the pressures of work.
Piermantier said he enjoyed the lack of litter around the bridge in the river gorge, an effect partially due to the group of citizens who recently cleaned up the area.
“Hopefully it stays that way,” Piermantier said, “so that people who want to enjoy it can.”
Kysylyczyn said that while walking along the bridge, he appreciates not just what is there, but also what is absent.
“There’s no smog down here,” he said, which makes it an ideal place to go when he wants to clear his head. In fact, the area is cut off from almost every aspect of urban life except the low, continuous hum of traffic along the bridges over the river.
“The cars can be a little noisy,” Kysylyczyn said, “Otherwise it’s really nice and peaceful.”