Many walkers, runners, cyclists and sightseers love the Vancouver Land Bridge. “It is highly popular and used and loved,” said Confluence program manager Courtney Yilk.
But not that many people understand exactly what it is and what it does, Yilk said. That’s why Saturday’s big Earth Day volunteer work party on the bridge was also an educational outing. Volunteers with groups such as local Boy Scouts and The Mission Continues, a veterans organization that promotes ongoing service through volunteerism, didn’t just spread mulch, yank weeds and collect trash — they picked up some historical understanding, too.
The Vancouver Land Bridge is one of several architectural art projects along the Columbia River developed in the early 2000s to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s historical Corps of Discovery expedition through the American West. It’s a uniquely curving pedestrian overpass that links historic spots that once were one and the same — the fur-trading fort and the riverfront — before modern infrastructure including a railway and a highway got in the way. For about a century, Yilk said, the historic connection between the fort and the river was completely broken — until the Vancouver Land Bridge restored the link in 2008.
“You have to know our history to create a more thoughtful future,” said Confluence executive director Colin Fogarty.
Since then, Yilk said, Confluence — which works with the City of Vancouver and the National Park Service to maintain the bridge — has only hosted two big volunteer outings here. The first was last year on Earth Day and it was such a success, Yilk said, that Confluence decided to do it again this year.