Some had their first kiss there. Others proposed to their soulmates. But most moseyed across, taking in the views, dodging spider webs and fish guts, and enjoying the cool breeze from over the top of the water.
The River Parks Authority opened up its old pedestrian bridge near Zink Dam one last time this weekend for family photo shoots before its reconstruction commences, and organizers said the flood of RSVPs for time slots solidly grounded the decision.
“Every person in Tulsa has a story about this bridge,” volunteer Bruce Smith said.
The former railroad crossing dates to 1917 but was converted to a pedestrian bridge in 1975.
Professional photographer Laurie Biby, who took the portraits and is a member of the Authority’s advisory board, said the slots initially spanned two hours, but as responses poured in, they decided to expand the opportunity across two days.
Some subjects came pushed in strollers, others shuffled with walkers and a few even came on paws or two wheels. But the memories flowed like the Arkansas River when they stepped onto the wooden planks.
Biby, an ultra-marathoner, said she used to get her miles in on the bridge.
“It was like running in air conditioner,” she said.
Smith had a distinct memory of driving by with his brother and seeing some type of vehicle drive across the top of the bridge, where train cars once rolled.
“When you’d go on a walk, this was the spot you’d stop for a kiss or the question,” volunteer Anna Chasteen said.
That’s exactly what Greg Clanton did about 21 years ago when he asked Heather Clanton to marry him. Taking photos with their two teenage daughters, the pair said it’s a “bummer” that the bridge has to go, but they’re excited to see the new come in its place.
Lifelong Tulsan Carrie Smith agreed.
“I’ve crossed this bridge thousands of time,” she said, her two daughters listening nearby. “I hate to see it go.”
Fishing was a prominent pastime on the bridge, she remembered, and passersby often had to step over the fish guts left behind when they were finished with their catch.
“It just added to the charm of it,” she said, chuckling. “Seeing people out there fishing and people walking their dogs and rollerblading and running and little kids riding their bikes.”
Susan Young, a cyclist who reserved a spot for a group photo, remembered dodging spider webs dangling from the overpass and slick spots on rainy days but enjoying the span anyway. The bridge used to be one of her and her husband’s routes to cut over the river, she said.
Nancy Kerrer and Kristin Kay, also cyclists, shared memories after having their photo taken.
Karrer remembered once riding across with her husband. His phone rang, and he “fumbled it,” she said, dropping it into the river.
“My husband married a couple over there,” Kay chimed in.
Ryan Howell, events coordinator for the River Parks Authority, said he was pleased to be able to offer the public a chance to reconnect with the bridge before it is replaced.
Reservations were $10 a group, and they offered about 250 slots, he said, running about 20 groups of no more than 8 people each an hour.
COVID-19, the virus that dashed their original plan of a fundraising cocktail soiree, remained top of mind throughout the day. Masks were required in all areas except on the bridge for photos, and signs and seating reminded attendees to practice social distancing.
Organizers also offered cold waters and shuttle rides to and from the parking lot under an unrelenting sun.
As of Saturday evening, several time slots remained open for Sunday morning and afternoon photo sessions. Those who wish to reserve a spot may do so at bit.ly/1LastShot.
Featured Gallery: History of the Pedestrian Bridge over the Arkansas River