Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The 'scary' mile-high, swinging bridge

When Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law the bill authorizing the Grandfather Mountain State Park Tuesday, a sizable crowd assembled to witness the signature that would convert much of the late Hugh Morton's favorite mountain into a park that will preserve its glories forever -- nearly 2,500 acres, in fact. Morton was the photographer, developer, promoter, Tar Heel fan and loving devotee of all things related to North Carolina. He is probably responsible for the fact that the Blue Ridge Parkway has no entrance fees, and that the parkway built the Linn Cove Viaduct around Grandfather Mountain, a roadway many of us believe is among the wonders of the modern world. It was Hugh's idea to bring the Battleship North Carolina home to Wilmington.

Among a great many other things, Morton photographed and promoted Mildred the Bear, and urged visitors to walk across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.

Dee Freeman, the state's new secretary of environment and natural resources, spoke at the bill-signing session and recalled that when he was a boy, he had "always heard about the mile-high swinging bridge and it scared me to death."

It was a scary notion -- a pedestrian bridge that, any reasonable youngster might imagine, meant a mile-deep fall for those pedestrians unwary enough to lose hold.

But the bridge was nothing of the sort. It was well over a mile high in altitude, to be sure, but it was less than 100 feet above the ground below. And it didn't swing all that much, either, because periodic high winds on Grandfather Mountain required the use of guy wires to steady the bridge in a blow.

The late CBS newsman Charles Kuralt, a close friend of Morton, once spoke at a North Caroliniana Society dinner honoring Morton. Kuralt poked fun at Morton, referring to his bridge not as mile-high, or swinging, either, but as "the eighty-foot-high tethered bridge" at Grandfather Mountain, a line that provoked a roar of laughter from the crowd -- and a tight smile from its creator who was gracious enough to let his friends kid him a little now and then.

I miss Hugh, and his friendship, encouragement and ideas, a lot. But we'll have Grandfather Mountain State Park to remember him, and his example, all our days.

10 comments:

stephen said...

Thank you, Hugh Morton.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I actually approve of something Bev did. And, yes, thank Hugh!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the $24 entrance fee will be reduced? Hopefully. Anybody ever been up to the top when the winds are @ 70 knots??? That's scary.

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