By Moira Blazi
If you’ve never taken a walk across the old haul bridge, you should. The views of the Cabinets and the magnificent Kootenai river are unequaled. Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve been out there, if so, it’s time to go again, and this time listen. The bridge is now singing.
The bridge was once used to haul innumerable logs from all points north to the busy saw mills and the holding ponds which are now a wetland wildlife refuge. Recently, several large metal “chimes” , were installed by local sculptor Todd Berget as a demonstration/precursor of what, with a little luck and a lot of hard work will become Lincoln County’s “Bridge of Voices.”
With an inspired and dedicated committee in place, this ambitious project is currently in the very early stages. “We have come to some agreement about what the purpose of this project is, once you put it on paper, it starts to come together,” committee member Tina Oliphant told The Montanian. “We are currently looking into the feasibility of the project, things like the structural capacity of the bridge,” she added.
“There are many entities involved , including the City of Libby, Lincoln County and the Port Authority, each with its own issues and concerns. With a project of this magnitude, it is important that it is done right,” committee member, Sara Sorenson explained. Hoping to create a magnet attraction that will, “entice people to drive 100 miles out of their way, we need to create something really special,” she continued. “We are thinking of literally thousands of chimes, the number only limited by what the bridge can hold. People can buy different sizes, and each one will represent an individual, living or dead. There will be a plaque with all the names and historical markers telling of the rich history of the Haul Bridge, and surrounding areas,” she said.
“By springtime, we should have a game plan to get this going,” committee member, Todd Berget told The Montanian. “Besides looking at the structural integrity, we are working with the folks who live in adjoining neighborhoods, taking their input and listening to their concerns.”
Even with hundreds or thousands of chimes, the sound wont become too loud, the ringers will be close to the wall of the chimes, so even with high wind, there will not be a “church bell effect,” Berget explained. “I am honestly more excited about this than the eagles or the sasquatches, he continued. People don’t realize what you can see from there, the view is awesome.
Oliphant agrees, “It is a somewhat nasty looking bridge, but a beautiful, breathtaking location. So, we are working on how to best position the site to reflect what we are trying to do. This could include sitting areas and memorial and historical plaques.” Heavier foot traffic will also serve to keep down the vandalism which has plagued the area, added Berget. “Everybody has a voice, and this project will reflect that, when we were installing the original seven chimes, my helper remarked, “We have the swinging bridge, now we have the singing bridge.”
“The harmony of so many individual chimes will represent the collective human voice,” Sorenson added. “On still days you might not hear the chimes, but sometimes voices that aren’t speaking can be just as powerful, we would like this project to reflect the shared human experience.”
Photo of the Haul Bridge by Moira Blazi, The Montanian