<bt>Traffic on Amherst Avenue in Springfield backed up for two blocks last Wednesday night just as rush hour was winding down. The cause was not a severe accident or yielding the right-of-way to emergency vehicles on their way to a disaster.
It was the Third Annual Springfield Bridge Walk celebrating both Veterans Bridge, which traverses Old Keene Mill Road, and a community celebration entitled "Lighting the Heart of Springfield."
Each year, the celebration draws more than 100 people, many with their dogs, in a show of support for the area adjacent to the central Springfield business section.
"This is our third anniversary Bridge Walk that started as a way to say thanks for the new Amherst Avenue bridge. Now, it has become a good reason to get all the people of this area together to celebrate Springfield. It's a community-building event," said Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee).
"This is the most fun of politics. When everyone gets together to celebrate their community. This is where life really begins — in the community," said Sen. Jay O'Brien (R-39th).
STARTING ON the north side of the bridge, at the intersection of Bland and Amherst avenues, the contingent of citizens, politicians, local business leaders and a truck from the Springfield Volunteer Fire Department proceeded across the span to the grounds of American Legion Post 176, located at the southern terminus.
"What we are really celebrating tonight is our sense of community. Events like this are truly an important part of community building," said Gerald Connolly (D-At-large), chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, to the crowd assembled in the Post's plaza area following the march.
He was joined in that praise by Dels. Vivian E. Watts (D-39th) and Mark D. Sickles (D-43rd).
Representing Fort Belvoir at the ceremony was Lt. Col. James M. Brandon, Commander, 12th Aviation Battalion, U.S. Army. He also oversees the operation of Davison Army Airfield at Belvoir.
"America has survived good times and bad times. But coming together as we are tonight shows the world Americans are not afraid to gather and celebrate our heritage. Thanks for letting Fort Belvoir be a part of your community," Brandon said.
THE BRIDGE WALK originated from a drive to install "acorn" lights on the span. Because the bridge is the trunk connecting Springfield's two commercial revitalization districts it was an integral part of the state's plan for revamping the Springfield Interchange, known locally as "The Mixing Bowl."
Others involved in the original project and the annual Bridge Walks, in addition to Kauffman and VDOT, included the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Area Revitalization Council, Springfield Cultural Center, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Dominion Virginia Power, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, TAGS and Whole Foods Market.
Several years before Phase II construction of the Springfield Interchange, some in the community were concerned that the project would adversely impact business in the area and diminish property values.
"VDOT was responsive to our community concerns and worked with us to redesign and reconstruct the bridge. It is a good example of cooperation between the state and local community," Kauffman said.
"Veterans Bridge is a community gateway, and our annual parade celebrates everything that makes our community a great place to call home," he said.
Approximately $1 million in bond funds will be spent this year for landscaping and streetscaping around the bridge, according to Kauffman's office.
Following the formal presentations, those participating in the march were able to enjoy ice cream and other refreshments supplied by Paradise Ice Cream and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. The Kings Park Concert Band provided music for the event.