Please Amsterdam City planners and decision makers, before it is too late, add an element to the pedestrian bridge that has the potential to greatly enhance its appeal as a regional and statewide tourist attraction! Make it part of a New York State Walk of Fame!
Special events are wonderful ways to get people to Amsterdam’s waterfront and pedestrian bridge, but they require huge city investments of time, money and resources to pull off and when they are over, the people leave and don’t come back till another one is held.
When the new pedestrian bridge was being planned we were told it would become a popular tourist destination because of the view, the plantings and the stories about Amsterdam it would feature. Since opening last year, it definitely provides a very nice view of the Mohawk and the incorporated artwork and architectural elements certainly do a commendable job telling the story of our wonderful community. But neither of these features is proving compelling or buzz worthy enough to get anywhere near the projected number of people to pull off at Exit 27 of the Thruway for a look see, much less an extended visit! And though the plants are certainly nice, they are not proving spectacular enough to attract tourist attention.
Back before the bridge’s construction began, when I was trying to get consideration of the Walk of Fame idea, I was told that it was expected that annual donations from bridge visitors would be in the thousands of dollars!
Yet, even though none of these expectations are happening, I still love everything about that bridge and desperately want to see it succeed. So I’m still hoping that those in control of its fate will stop throwing hundreds of thousands of precious dollars at its original mission for attracting tourists, which shows little sign of potential or success and begin experimenting with other approaches to attract outsider attention to this huge and bold public investment.
My original Walk of Fame proposal called for each of the 62 New York State counties to conduct on-line votes or form committees to name their respective county’s first State Walk of Fame nominee. Here’s some of the examples of the types of individuals who might be selected: Albany County might go with Andy Rooney; Bronx County might designate Fiorello LaGuardia; Chataqua County would probably pick Lucille Ball; Columbia County might choose former US President Martin Van Buren; Franklin County could go with Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau; Erie County might honor former MLB pitching great Warren Spahn, two-time US President Grover Cleveland or who knows, perhaps even CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer. Monroe County voters would have plenty of candidates including wrestler Gorilla Monsoon, Kodak founder George Eastman, golfing great Walter Hagen, actor Hugh O’Brien, the great Cab Calloway or maybe even the recently departed actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. If I had a vote for Montgomery County, I’d choose Kirk Douglas.Can you see how just the selection process in each county will lead to a tremendous amount of publicity for and interest in our bridge?
So how would each county’s selection end up being honored on the bridge?
I was in Richmond this past December and visited the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Pedestrian Bridge, which spans the James River and had just opened that month. Its just ten feet wide and 1,600 feet long, built on civil war era piers that still spanned the river but the very simple steel structure still cost $11.6 million to build. On the afternoon I visited, there were no special events going on but the bridge was crammed with folks and most of them were reading one of the scores of plexiglass protected placards that are mounted on the railings of the bridge. These placards describe the fall of Richmond during the Civil War. The structure of these placards is simple, weatherproof, easy to clean and maintain and accommodates the type of presentation (photos and text descriptions) that would be needed to profile the story of each Walk of Fame honoree. Most importantly, the existing Amsterdam walking bridge already has a railing with slanted metal top trim that could serve as a base for similar placards. All of this means that the Walk of Fame concept could be tested without spending huge amounts of money and in a way that can be quickly and easily reversed should it prove not to be successful. (Or likewise expanded upon if it does prove to be a hit!)
The advantages the Walk of Fame concept has over the existing theme of the bridge are many. Most importantly, it gives folks from all over the state an input to the bridge’s content. It gives them a decent reason to consider pulling off the Thruway to see who their county’s honoree(s) is. Since each year new honorees can be added, it provides a built in series of induction events (western NY counties, central, eastern, southern tier etc.) that will be promoted for FREE, statewide, by every newspaper, blog, web site and tourism information service that covers our state. And remember, all these folks who come visit the Walk of Fame will also be seeing all the existing artwork and elements that feature Amsterdam! Plus, there is a much greater potential for a “Please donate appeal station” to be successful with such an attraction. Visitors will want to assure their county’s honorees are maintained well. As far as cost is concerned, these placards could be constructed and installed less than what is being spent for just the new artwork about to be added to the bridge.
I could go on and on with reasons why a Walk of Fame should be incorporated but I’ll stop here and ask what do you think? Share your thoughts and opinions on the Facebook Groups for Amsterdam or in the comments section below! I intend to attend the next Amsterdam Common Council Meeting and try one more time, before its too late.