In a December 12th speech at the Town Club in Fox Point, retired Milwaukee Journal Sentinel architecture critic Whitney Gould called the Fox Point Ravine Footbridge “critical to Fox Point’s history, identity, and sense of collective memory” and described the current effort to replace the now-closed bridge as “well worth it.”
Gould, who is now a member of the Milwaukee City Plan Commission, spoke at a gathering attended by over 70 Fox Point residents. The event was intended to support the efforts of Footbridge Friends, a private not-for-profit group raising funds toward construction of a new bridge in a public/private partnership with the Village of Fox Point. Similar events to support the footbridge fundraising campaign are planned for January.
Parks, walking paths, and footbridges are vital civic amenities, Gould said, that “increase the quality of life in communities, add to property values, and help keep population in cities.”
Quoting Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of New York’s Central Park and Milwaukee’s Lakefront Park, Gould argued that footbridges themselves serve as a democratizing force in a community. They literally bridge the gaps between different neighborhoods and “bring people of all ages and social strata together to experience nature,” she said.
Another big fan of footbridges, she added, is Santiago Calatrava, designer of perhaps the most famous museum addition in the U.S., the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Calatrava wing, as well as a footbridge that links the lakefront museum to downtown Milwaukee.
To Calatrava, footbridges are “mystical” creations, Gould said. They provide a “metaphysical experience of being suspended between earth and sky” that transform our understanding of a place.
Despite these benefits, she said, footbridges, parks and walking paths not infrequently encounter public opposition, invariably being characterized as “frills and frivolities” by those not in favor of devoting local government funds to their construction and upkeep.
In the face of such opposition, Gould argued, it’s important to take the long view. She buttressed her argument with a quote from celebrated Victorian art critic John Ruskin, who said, “Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work that our descendants will thank us for.”
Gould described the proposed new ravine footbridge design as “simple and elegant,” well-proportioned, nicely detailed, and ideal for its “delicate setting.”
She added, “It will serve the community well for generations to come.”
Hosts of the event at the Town Club were Fox Point residents John and Mary Crichton, John and Mary Emory, Barbara Fuldner, David and Mary Beth Goelzer, Charles and Carol James, Charles and Judy Mulcahy, and Linda Gale Sampson.
Footbridge Friends is a non-profit organization seeking pledges to support a public/private partnership to replace the footbridge that spans the ravine between Bridge and Barnett Lanes. It will be making a report in February to the Village Board about its efforts to collect about $625,000 in pledges.
According to Barbara Schwartz, Footbridge Friends president, all donations of over $1,000 will be noted in a plaque at the footbridge. Any donations over $3,000 can be spread out over a three-year period.