Heritage site created for Red Bridge

'It has been invisible for all its history. It's just been a functional bridge, tying two communities together'

From weed patch to heritage site - Andrew Yarmie with the Kamloops Heritage Commission summed up the recent history of a scrubby piece of land on the southern tip of the Red Bridge.

Now that property doesn't look so weedy. In fact, it got a covered kiosk and some memorial benches that were unveiled Wednesday afternoon.

The wooden trestle bridge was the focus of the unveiling, with the kiosk including details of its history. Originally built in 1887, the bridge was rebuilt in 1912 and again in 1936.

"It has been invisible for all its history. It's just been a functional bridge, tying two communities together," he said.

The Heritage Commission recognized the bridge in 2007 with a discreet plaque, but it wasn't until the Communities In Bloom committee also got involved that the effort to create a fuss about the Red Bridge took off.

Now there's a red-capped kiosk and five benches at the bridge's southern end, with a second kiosk and four benches below in Pioneer Park.

There's also an effort afoot to light the bridge, but that ambitious project needs hundreds of thousands of dollars for solar flood lights.

Raechel Long won't need lights to prompt her to take her grandchildren to the bridge. One of the benches unveiled Wednesday bears a plate to remember her husband, Darrel.

"Now the grandchildren can come and sit on Grandpa's bench when they come to town," she said.

Grandpa's family came to the area in the 1920s to work in the lumber industry. They started up Kamloops Lumber, right beside the Red Bridge - in fact, some of their lumber was used to build the last bridge.

When her husband was a teenager, he delivered sawdust to the homes along Lorne Street, including the Fuocos and Recchis, whose houses still stand metres from the new kiosk.

Modesta Luca and John Trotta bought the bench next to Long's in memory of their parents, Tarquinio and Gilda Trotta.

Luca said her dad rented a nearby house to newly immigrated Italians. Lorne Street was known as Little Italy at one time because so many immigrants settled there.

That Italian presence was one of the reasons why the Colombo Lodge is recognized on a third bench. Trotta said 2014 marks the organization's 100th anniversary.

"It is a cultural, historic site," he said.

Jack Miller and his two sisters and their families had a bench named in memory of their mother, Gwen Miller, who graduated from Kamloops high school in 1936. That bench is in Pioneer Park.

"She used to say she and her girlfriends used to jump off the bridge and swim in the river," he said.

"We felt this was a great way to remember our mother, who many called Granny Gwen."

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