Let There Be Lights on The Bridge!

West County News - Editorial

It is arguably the crown jewel of West County and draws the most attention from visitors to our fair land. The Bridge of Flowers is a unique place in the state and for us locals it is an annual delight as we walk the path of flowers from Shelburne to Buckland. So when someone proposes a change to this attraction it gets our attention.

Eyebrows are raised when it is mentioned that neon lights, of all things, might be installed on the graceful arches of the bridge. At first it sounds almost too much to believe that something garish like this would even be considered for what is already so beautiful the way it is.

If you haven't heard, local neon artist Tony Palumbo of Colrain has presented his plans to various organizations in Shelburne Falls to get their support. For the most part he has already gained much backing for this large scale, temporary art installation.

Once the idea of what this renowned artist plans for the Bridge of Flowers sinks in a bit the more appeal it has to us at West County News. It is a bold concept but we do not think it will detract from the beauty of the flowers or the bridge but will instead make this attraction something to marvel at even when the flowers have turned brown in the fall.

Basically the project calls for red neon lights outlining arches on the Iron Bridge side of the Bridge of Flowers and blue neon lights on the other side. Together they will cast a purple glow in the Deerfield River beneath the bridge. The plan is to keep the lights on for 13 months and there will be little effect on the structure of the bridge and no damage to the flowers during installation.

Mr. Palumbo is not seeking any money from the towns of Buckland and Shelburne but instead is seeking private donations and grants. It clearly will enhance something that is already a big draw for tourists and will probably keep people in town in the evenings as they stick around to enjoy the light show.

Having said that, there are already two groups associated with the bridge who have come out in opposition to the art project. In a recent vote by the two remaining Shelburne Falls Fire/Water Commissioners both voted against the idea. Another group, Bridge of Flowers Preservation Inc., formed in 1983 to raise money for a major structural restoration of the bridge, voted 5-4 against the project.

We feel strongly that local residents and business owners should have their say, after all they are the ones that will live with it everyday for over a year. Mr. Palumbo himself told us he wants community backing before he moves ahead. That seems to us reasonable and we are glad that such organizations as the Art Bank, Woman's Club Bridge of Flowers Committee and the Shelburne Falls Area Business Association to name a few, have already come out in support of the art installation. And perhaps the support of the fire and water district members would be a good litmus of community support instead of a small group like the preservation folks or the fire/water commissioners.

So good luck Mr. Palumbo. If you move forward it will bring a touch of art to the community that we all can enjoy.

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