By Don Bruns
In 2003, the new Ringling Bridge was completed, replacing the John Ringling drawbridge that connected Bird Key, St. Armand's Key, Lido Key and Longboat Key to Sarasota. Ringling built the first incarnation in 1926, as a gateway to St. Armands. While I appreciated the new span and the improved traffic flow, I didn’t realize how much I would come to care about the world's largest single-box-girder structure. As a new resident of Golden Gate Point, I see the bridge from my front window every day, and I'm amazed at its grace and beauty.
With an elegant sweep across the bay, the magnificent arch carries businesspeople to downtown and beyond, and tourists, locals and tradespeople onto the islands. Wide paths provide a trail for bicycle enthusiasts; and runners, joggers, walkers and plodders like me enjoy the sidewalk as much for the exercise as the gorgeous views. From the top of the bridge you can see the boats, Bird Key, Longboat Key, dolphins and seabirds, and on either end of the span are inviting parks.
The bridge ties Sarasota to its present and past, and has become a major part of the energy and flow that defines our community. Twenty-four hours a day a slice of Sarasota is on the bridge, coming, going, but never standing still. Oh, for a brief moment the Segway tour halts while the leader points out a manatee, a mother stops running behind her baby stroller and leans down to apply more sunscreen to her infant's face, or an octogenarian and his wife pause to admire the reds and golds of a Sarasota sunset, but the pulse of life above the water continues. Watching the bridge daily, walking it almost as often, I'm amazed at the synergy of people all brought together on this single structure. The bridge is about one mile long, but in that mile our entire town is represented, coming together for many different reasons, but uniting in the strength, the vitality, the beauty and the energy that defines Sarasota. God, I love that bridge.
Don Bruns has 12 published novels, with the most current, Reel Stuff, released by Oceanview Publishing last December.