Give a bridge its due

The Duck Brook Motor Bridge on the Paradise Hill section of the Acadia National Park Loop Road is one of the many engineering wonders in the park.

While park co-founder John D. Rockefeller Jr. was directing work on motor roads, he spared no expense to see that each bridge and structure was an integral part of the landscape. The use of native pink granite in many bridges, both on the motor roads and the carriage paths, along with fluid, curving forms and graceful arches, ensured that the artificial constructs of mortal beings would be as unobtrusive yet permanent as possible.

In last week’s paper, a Georgia woman, Therese Marshall, whose father was one of the dozens of local craftsmen and construction workers who toiled right after World War II to complete the auto bridge, announced an effort to reopen the vista of that spectacular structure from Route 3 in Bar Harbor. She has created a website:

At first, the idea seems unusual in that most vista-clearing efforts involve exposing views of landscapes, not structures. And in this case, construction of the bridge was delayed, meaning it does not appear on any of the original drawings for views in the park many years before.

When the bridge was completed, the effects of the Great Fire of 1947 a few years earlier resulted in there being no trees to block the view. It undoubtedly escaped anyone’s attention to record any desire to preserve that view of it from Route 3 long into the future.

The importance of that view, however, should not be underestimated. As much as the bridge is a triumph of engineering, it is also a monument to the labors and skills of area residents who built it.

How can one look up at the Duck Brook Motor Road Bridge from Route 3 and not pause to contemplate the efforts and skills needed by its builders and reflect on who they were?

This year’s Acadia centennial has focused much attention on how Acadia got to where it is today and the importance of preserving its natural and cultural legacy for the next 100 years. The efforts of the CCC crews who worked on trails and on other conservation projects have been duly noted and honored. However the work of the men and women, almost all local residents, who built the Park Loop Road and associated structures, have not been equally recognized.

It would seem a shame to now deny their descendents and new generations of visitors to Acadia the chance to be inspired by the view of that bridge so that they, too, can ask those same questions.

In the near future, the Duck Brook Motor Bridge is scheduled to undergo major maintenance work. Considering the potential disruption to wildlife and vegetation from that work, it would make sense to do any tree and brush cutting to improve the view at the same time.

It would cause little to no additional major disturbance to have crews from the University of Maine, with whom the park has worked for decades on other vista improvements in Acadia, to do that work at the same time.

In meeting after meeting throughout Downeast Maine, park officials often express opinions on how something done outside Acadia’s boundaries, outside of National Park Service jurisdiction, may affect the view from the inside. It is only natural, then, that those living outside the park from time to time may be equally passionate about what is or is not visible in the other direction.

We trust that National Park Service authorities will keep all that in mind as they contemplate whether to elevate the stature of this fine span to its rightful, culturally significant place by appropriate improvements to the view.

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