'A Gateway to Somewhere Beautiful'
"A bridge that was ready for demolition is now a bridge of destination," Bill Miller said during the official grand opening and dedication of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge on Saturday.
After three years of planning and preparation, Miller, chairman of the Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, and fellow members of the volunteer organization, saw all of their hard work pay off during the special ceremony.
"Miracles like this can happen when a group of people act like a community," Miller said. "Over three years ago we came together with a common vision. It was a long stretch but we wanted to do it to bless all of those that happen to pass our way."
The bridge, completed in 1925, served as part of the US 64/US 74-1/NC 9 highway until 2011 when a new bridge was opened to traffic. After that the historic bridge was turned over to the town of Lake Lure and the Friends of Lake Lure Flowering Bridge came together to create the gardens. With an emphasis on native plants, their mission was to create a "Gateway to Somewhere Beautiful" for the enjoyment of the public.
"This is a great way to commemorate a historical site and it's a project that most everybody has been interested in. It has been easy for Bill to recruit people to help," said Chuck Watkins, member of the Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge.
The volunteers began planting the gardens in April and have been impressed with the great amount of growth that has happened in just six months.
"This has been an incredible thing. We are 100 percent volunteer and that's what makes this so beautiful," Miller said. "It is truly unbelievable how fantastic it looks. We thought we would have to wait a few years to get this kind of maturity."
The gardens feature a variety of different plant life and each of the areas has a theme. Themes include a herb garden, Lake Lure Classical Academy's "Raptors" Garden, a fragrant garden, a tropical garden, a rose garden, a prairie garden and many others. The bridge has welcomed visitors since April and according to Miller, has already had visitors from 37 states and 15 foreign countries.
"In the next couple of years I see the bridge bringing in 40,000 to 50,000 people to the area," said Lake Lure Mayor Bob Keith. "The most heard word when people tour it is 'wow.' I see this really having an impact on the town."
The dedication events began with tours of the gardens and exhibits from Lake Lure artists. Children also participated in a scavenger hunt throughout the gardens.
"This takes an existing structure and gives it new life," said John Miracle, a visitor from Rutherfordton. "Folks can come through and enjoy it and it kind of lifts your spirits up as you are looking through."
Andrew Hill, architect of the project, was one of the hundreds of people that came out for the day. He works for the Cardno Company based in Australia and was very impressed with the progress.
"This is absolutely fantastic. We gave them a good base and a foundation and they've made it flourish," Hill said.
After the tours visitors heard comments from Nick Tennyson, chief deputy secretary of support and acting DMV commissioner, members of the Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge and Miller who thanked the numerous donors and supporters that made the project possible. The ceremony ended when Keith and Mayor Barbara Meliski of Chimney Rock cut the garland to officially open the bridge.
"So many people have contributed to this effort. There is not a single person on the town staff that was not supportive," Miller said. "We have created a contagious place that people will want to return to."
The bridge is located just past the Carolina Moon Coffee Cafe' at 2992 Memorial Highway at the intersection. Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is a volunteer 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Donations to help preserve and maintain the bridge and gardens are appreciated. They are accepted at P.O. Box 125, Lake Lure, NC 28746.
For more information visit www.LakeLureFloweringBridge.org.