The two orange bridges

Nancy Whelan compares Parksville’s bridge to San Fran’s

What do Parksville’s bridge over the Englishman River and the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge have in common? Not a great deal, actually, but a few items bear comparison.

The most visible similarity is their colour.

Both bridges are orange. The Parksville bridge in fact has taken its colour to heart and is almost officially known as “The Orange Bridge”.

This designation is frequently used in giving directions around the southeastern end of town; you’re looking for something either just before or just after the Orange Bridge. The bridge and its colour have even been adopted by nearby businesses.

The Golden Gate on the other hand, came by its permanent colour almost by accident. After the bridge’s completion, there was some urging to change its colour from the original and preservative orange; the U.S. Navy wanted it painted yellow and black!

Apparently there was an uproar about changing the Golden Gate from its birthday suit orange, and a specially mixed shade known as International Orange became its permanent colour.

The Golden Gate’s designer felt that the bright orange colour was the perfect complement to the area’s green hills, blue sky and water and … the ever present grey fog! The bridge’s northern, reddish soil approaches in Marin County, also lent its colour to the final decision.

Today, should you want to match something… maybe a little decorative bridge over your fish pond, or the colour of your kitchen ceiling, to San Francisco Bay’s famous bridge you can check with a well known paint dealer in San Fran for exactly the same colour.

And you can purchase it in less that commercial quantities too — 500 gallons (US). Just ask for “Fireweed” code # SW 6328.

Meanwhile, back in Parksville, our Englishman River bridge may have one-upped the Golden Gate after all.

The first bridge over the Englishman River was completed in 1887; that span down south didn’t come online until 1937. And a few years back there was a lot of chatter about  re-painting our famous PV span with some other colour. But last time I looked it was still “The Orange Bridge”.

Bridges don’t come cheaply, however, and another similarity between our bridges is that the G.G. was given a few rivets worth of depression-days cash by surrounding residents and businesses who were eager for a proper crossing of the strait to ease their way into the booming city of San Francisco.

Our Orange Bridge, being on the very fringe of the city, is now trying, through its nearby businesses, to raise the profile of its contiguous merchants by sprucing up the area to make it more noticeable and enticing to the passing public.

And they’re offering to do this at their own expense and effort, asking only for permission from City Hall to install and maintain the touches that will bring the Orange Bridge business neighborhood into sharper focus.

Sometimes bridges, of whatever fame or renown, need a little help from the people at their approaches.

So far, Parksville seems to be recognizing the needs of the Orange Bridge merchants, and allowing the face lifts.

Planter boxes for flowers (orange ones, I hope!) and street light banners are in the works. Maybe a unique name for the area could be a drawing card too; every city has its specially named places that contribute to rather than detract from a city’s image.

So put on your thinking caps, merchants; and don’t ever let them change the colour of your bridge!

— Nancy Whelan’s column appears every second Thursday in The NEWS. E-mail:

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