elkintribune.com

The span must stand

Cliff Clark, Editor

May 21, 2010

There comes a time in a towns history where a line in the sand needs to be drawn...that time is now.
Every effort must be made to insure the wrecking ball does not visit the Hugh Chatham Memorial Bridge.
The span must stand.
That should be the clarion call shouted from Elkin residents, business owners and most importantly, Elkin Town officials, to the bureaucrats in Raleigh.
We must, in a strong voice, tell the N.C. Department of Transportation, we will not stand on the sidelines and watch as one of Elkins most iconic images is dragged down and sold for common riprap and salvaged steel.
That still-standing concrete and steel span represents a past filled with warm memories of good stable jobs, great schools and solid families.
Many of those jobs have vanished as the furniture mills have been shuttered, but we still have ourselves and a future that we, and no one in Raleigh, can define.
That bright shiny future includes a tourism economy using as its draw the many vineyards that have sprung from the fertile soil of the Yadkin Valley.
We also see a future for downtown Elkin. One based on the unique, quaint businesses that cater to those tourists, anchored by the massive concrete structure that supports the picturesque steel span.
You can see it if you look at it just right. Dotting the span are kiosks featuring local foods, handmade arts and crafts, ice cream stands, live music, and the clanky coin-operated binoculars so folks can look out across the valley.
Try to imagine an annual Bridge Bash, featuring local wines, music and artisans.
Its a vision that only lacks a firm commitment to say no to those who would stand in its way.
To those Elkin and Jonesville officials who say it will cost too much to keep the span standing; we say, we will lose too much of ourselves if another touchstone of our history disappears.
And once its gone, like the furniture industries of our great past, it is gone never to be replaced.
For any effort to succeed there must be a leader; someone who will not back down, no matter the cost.
It is only natural that Elkin and Jonesville become the voice for the bridge, its guardian.
If there is an obstacle, overcome it. Worried about falling pieces of concrete? Fence off the areas below the bridge and encase the underside of it with steel mesh to catch potential debris.
Worried about the cost to taxpayers for liability insurance? Ask them. They may be willing to pay the price.
Simply put, find a solution to each problem, address it, and then fix it. Dont just say it costs too much to keep it.
Thats the easy way out.
Leadership means making decisions, tough decisions.
Now is the time for tough decisions.
Now is the time to draw that line in the sand.
The span must stand.