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Christie Weber

Credit: Janel Mapels

Bridging the Gap

As a newcomer to Sturgeon Bay, Wis., in the mid-1990s, Christie Weber quickly grew fond of the town's Michigan Street Bridge. She often crossed the historic span on the way to family camping trips; her children did so every day on their way to the town center. When she heard that the bridge, built in 1930, was going to be torn down, Weber decided to show state officials how important the structure was to the community. "Everyone has a memory of going across that bridge," she says. "It's a beautiful ribbon of lace." She and other preservationists found traffic counts and maintenance records that had been overlooked by the state, and after nearly 10 years of negotiations, Wisconsin officials agreed to repair the bridge and build a new one nearby to ease traffic congestion. But the state did not provide funding for aesthetic repairs, which Weber considered vital to return the bridge to its former grandeur. Her brother, musician Pat MacDonald, had a plan: To raise money for new cedar decking and a fresh coat of paint, he and a few friends, including singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, played a benefit concert near the bridge. Now in its fourth year, the Steel Bridge Songfest draws more than 100 musicians and nearly 5,000 listeners to the foot of the bridge every summer. Concert proceeds and CD sales go toward a special fund, administrated by the National Trust, that will ensure the long-term preservation of the bridge.  —Stephanie Joy Smith

 

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Playground in San Gabriel, California

Credit: Senya Lubisich

 

Monster's Ball

With a giant blue octopus, a yellow-and-blue-striped snail, and a dragon slide, La Laguna de San Gabriel Playground, where Eloy Zarate played as a child in San Gabriel, Calif., is worthy of its local nickname, Monster Park. Now a father himself, Zarate and his wife, Senya Lubisich, both history professors at local colleges, share Monster Park's beastly terrain with their four children. Yet neither of them had any idea of the significance of the colored concrete animals until a chance meeting with Fernando Dominguez, whose father was Mexican sculptor Benjamin Dominguez. The elder Dominguez came to the United States in the 1950s to build fanciful concrete structures around the country, and his work became an important part of the Chicano cultural movement. His 1965 creations for La Laguna Playground were his last. In late 2006, Zarate and Lubisich learned that Monster Park was going to be removed as part of a wider makeover, so they decided to make some noise. They formed Friends of La Laguna and held rallies and meetings to educate the public about the park's history, even gathering more than 3,000 signatures on a petition. "It was really heartening to see how the community responded," says Lubisich. Municipal officials responded, too: Friends of La Laguna has worked out a plan with the city of San Gabriel to restore the playground with the help of several historic preservation grants. Lubisich adds that the experience changed the way she looks at her community. "We have learned how valuable preservation is," she says.   —Stephanie Joy Smith