There’s been plenty of press over the past couple of years about the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge connecting Brown’s Island on the north bank of the James to Manchester (and the base of the Manchester Climbing Wall) on the south side. Less of it has centered on the public art installation that will accompany the bridge.
I got a chance to go for a mountain bike ride with Matt Perry, owner of Riverside Outfitters, and the artist commissioned to bring the sculpture to life, Josh Wiener, a couple of weeks ago. Wiener was in town from his home in Boulder, Co. for a public meeting — a discussion about what ideas and themes the community would like to see in the art.
We rode down to the base of the bridge on the southside, where now concrete columns have been erected and some of the steel base has been set on top of those columns. Winer talked about the very early-stage thoughts he has for the sculpture and where it might be located. He said the city officials haven’t tried to guide what he sculpts in any way, but they have set aggressive timeline — be done by this October.
Wiener said he’d have to work quickly, but he was confident he could finish on time. But what about the bridge itself? This is a structure, remember, that was supposed to be done in time for the UCI World Cycling Championship races this past September. One of the reasons it was delayed was to account for fish, like shad, striped bass and especially the endangered Atlantic sturgeon, that swim up the James to spawn every spring.
In his recent Why, Richmond? Why? column our good friend Phil Riggan took up the topic of whether spawning fish will again delay the bridge’s completion.
Writes Riggan: The project was delayed in the spring of 2015 in part because of the permitting process and complications arising from the need to protect fish habitats while working in the water, as ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We had a permit extension through the Army Corps of Engineers to stay in the water until Feb. 26 to do priority pier repair,” wrote Mark Olinger, the city’s planning director, in an email this week. “Most, if not all, of that has been done. There may be some small areas that we need to get back into the water, but none is mission critical and can wait until the waters open back up.”
He indicated that work in the river will not be permitted until June 15 after the spring fish migration. Work will continue out of the water on the bridge structure with scaffolding.