Bridging the gap
The City of Wilsonville is inviting the community to be their guest, awarding over $30,000 dollars in grant money to the 2012 beautification project known as "Beauty and the Bridge." The city hopes to create positive changes that will help residents and visitors alike feel at home in Wilsonville.
"A lasting impact will be created on two fronts," Charlotte Lehan says, a member of the city council. "It will make it a lot prettier, and it will make it safer."
Lehan was one of the primary forces behind the newest proposal for the project, which will include a lighting system and historical interpretive signs. First dedicated in 2012, the Beauty and the Bridge project gave Wilsonville students of all ages a chance to interact directly with the city, creating tiled artwork for the walls under the Interstate 5 overpass. As the project continues to expand, the goals of the project remain the same.
"City Councilor Charlotte Lehan proposed and the Community Enhancement Committee and Council approved $20,000 to fund four interpretive signs on each end of the Beauty and the Bridge Project,"says Jon Gail, the city's communication coordinator. "The Community Enhancement Committee and City Council also approved $10,000 to study and develop a plan to light the Beauty and the Bridge Project at night."
Lehan brought the idea to the council after speaking with community members and seeing a need to memorialize the project. The interpretive signs, which will be constructed by the end of this year, will seek to educate on the history of Beauty and the Bridge.
"History is not just the pioneer days — it's what happened 10, even 5, years ago, and we need to remember it, " Lehan said. "This is also a history project and we need to tell the story."
With the city's being split almost directly in half by I- 5, the high volumes of traffic passing under the overpass spurred safety measures, such as the raising of the sidewalks by ODOT, and beautification efforts during the first phase of the project six years ago.
"The big push for this project was the realization by the City of Wilsonville and ODOT that this was a unique opportunity because the area has a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists." Lehan said.
The project is also an opportunity to shed light on a problem bothering drivers and pedestrians alike — the dark sidewalks under the overpass. The city has made it a priority to install lights around the area to increase the safety of visitors in the evening hours and better display the art.
"We want to be pedestrian friendly enough that two 10-year-olds would feel safe crossing it, and that their parents would feel comfortable," Lehan says.
Above all, Lehan wants to immortalize this project by sharing the story of those who helped create it.
"It's been long enough that people have forgotten the history of it," Lehan said. "The kids and teachers worked on it for a better part of a year with a professional artist. We want people going forward to understand what a special project this was."