In what will continue to be a long, fluid discussion about what to do with the Young Street Bridge, which is also known as the Kurt Cobain Bridge because of its connection to the late artist and his band Nirvana, the city of Aberdeen held its first meeting with stakeholders on Thursday.
Those stakeholders included various business folk, people from area organizations, three of the four Aberdeen city council members who represent the areas surrounding the bridge, Aberdeen City Administrator Ruth Clemens, engineering staff and a few other members of the public.
Debra Seeman, the North Aberdeen Bridge Project manager for David Evans & Associates, Inc. (DEA), led the meeting. She went over the concerns, including the safety concerns, historical concerns, expressed how she grew up in Aberdeen too and she understands the reasons people want to keep the bridge, amongst other points regarding the structure.
The chief concerns are mainly on safety. The bridge has scored between a 7 out of 100 to a 14 out of 100, according to engineers who’ve rated it. A brand new bridge rates or should rate at 100. While there are many other concerns regarding the bridge, safety seems to be at the top of the list.
While that doesn’t spell good news for the bridge’s future existence, the city and DEA still seem open to alternatives hence the meeting. In addition to the stakeholder outreach group meetings, there will also be open houses and further discussion at future city council meetings.
Before the meeting, Clemens guessed “over 20,” people would show up. She wasn’t wrong, because about 30 showed up to the meeting. Clemens also shared her expectations for the meeting, which is the first of four of its kind.
“I think we’re trying to work with the group to kind of figure out what their expectations are,” Clemens said about an hour before the semi-private meeting, which was held at 10 a.m. inside Aberdeen City Hall.
Clemens said the city would hold community outreach meetings for the bridge and that’s exactly what they’ve started doing. It’s the point of a meeting like Thursday’s. After the meeting, Clemens shared her thoughts.
“I think it was a very respectful conversation and a very respectful dialogue held by the group,” Clemens said. “You’re starting to see people’s perspectives starting to emerge. I think as these dialogues continue we’ll start to hear more of their perspectives. This group is used as a sounding board, but they’re also bringing voice to their groups, whether it’s an association or (they represent) constituents. Ideally this group would be representing the voices of the people. They would be representing the stakeholders at large.”
One of the perspectives Clemens mentioned was that of Dani Bacon, who with her husband Lee, owns the Side One Studios building that will soon offer the public a great deal of Cobain, Nirvana, and music history in general. The Bacons also own the house where Cobain called home as a boy during his days in Aberdeen.
Bacon spoke about when people visit Aberdeen in order to see Cobain’s home, the bridge, and his city, that they tell the Bacons how they are “impacted” and why they came to Aberdeen.
“They do want to follow in his footsteps. They want to see things the way Kurt saw them,” Dani said. “From the feedback we have received, being able to sit under that bridge and look out at that river and just kind of maybe try getting into the same mindset, or where his mind may have been going during those times when he was writing that music. That music today is still being featured in movies today and it’s impacting everyone around the world still today.”
Speaking of people coming to Aberdeen and Cobain impacting them, a few international musicians were in town a couple weeks ago to see those same spots Cobain wandered. One of them, Tim Holehouse, of England, said Cobain “inspired” him to play music. He’s been a professional musician for more than 20 years. Holehouse played a few Nirvana songs underneath the bridge, plus an original. He called it “a dream come true to play” there.
When Dani was asked if she felt heard by DEA, she said “Absolutely.”
“We probably came in wondering what the format would be, what kind of information they would be sharing,” Dani said. “I feel like they were very open about how they came to where they are right now. And why they want to get the public’s input, and how they will be doing that in the future and how they’re going to get input from all of the public, not just this group. I think that was really important.”
Dani said they — the consultants at DEA — were “really good at listening” to “the voice of the fan.”
Before this meeting, there were people who felt the city was just going through the motions and that since the bridge’s safety is in question that it’s just going to be replaced and that’s that.
But, it doesn’t appear that’s how it is, or how the future discussions on the bridge will go. One attendee even sounded positive about the process and how thorough the city’s process seems to be.
And then there was Liz Ellis, Ward 3 city councilor, who walked over to write down her information because she and her fellow councilors want to hear from residents who are concerned about the project. She wants to make sure the residents in her ward can air their concerns.
Here’s how to contact them:
• Ellis — 360-298-5599, or email@example.com
• Prato — 360-580-3655, or firstname.lastname@example.org
• David Gakin (Ward 2) — 360-533-4100 ext. 7202, or email@example.com
And for residents in other city wards go to the Aberdeen city website at: aberdeenwa.gov
“I want people to know, whether they’re in my ward or not, that they can get in contact with their councilor,” Ellis said.
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org.