Years of Tulsa history behind old pedestrian bridge

Years of Tulsa history behind old pedestrian bridge (KTUL)

The old pedestrian bridge off Riverside Drive is about to get a multi-million dollar makeover.

The pedestrian bridge is a Tulsa icon, built long before any of us were even born.

"Since around the turn of the century, so yes, a long time," said Janet Kendall with the Tulsa River Parks Authority.

Kendall can appreciate that kind of longevity because she's been working with the River Parks for a while now.

"Since 1974," she said. "I'm one of the original employees."

During that time, she's learned a lot about the old bridge, some of it you may already know.

"It was originally a railroad bridge," said Kendall.

And some, you may never have heard of.

"It was donated by the railroad company to the City of Tulsa," said Kendall. "And in turn, River Parks Authority leased the bridge from the City."

That was in 1974. Soon after that, the bridge became River Parks' very first renovation project.

"It was done in two phases," Kendall said. "The first finished in 1975, the second in 1977."

To help raise money for the project, the local paper at the time sold inches of the bridge to the public.

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An inch of the bridge was yours for a price and you even got a cool certificate.

And for years, the annual Fourth of July fireworks display was launched from the top of the bridge.

Years later, the big flood of the 1980s hit.

"The pedestrian bridge walkway went underwater," said Kendall.

An empty tanker truck floated down river and managed to get caught on the bridge.

So now, after all these years, the old bridge will be torn down for something different.

River Parks Director Matt Meyer said three words sum up best why they're spending so much money to get this right – The Gathering Place.

"The Gathering Place is going to be a world class park that anchors the east bank" he said. "So we have to make sure the bridge that connects to it is a good fit."

Meyer said they've signed three-year contracts for the bridge, but it's too soon to know just how long it will take to finish.

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