A paralax view of the St. Croix River’s future

Brad Ayers
Brad Ayers

Paralax is an established concept generally associated with astronomy, but it has broader application. Simply stated, one’s perception of an object or event is influenced by the location of the observer as projected over time.

I use this concept to reinforce concerns about the new interstate St. Croix River Bridge I previously expressed in columns on these page.

Since the design plans were announced about a year ago, I’ve followed with interest on the psychological war campaign waged by the states and special interests promoting the concept of official blessing and becoming a reality at huge financial and environmental expense to the St. Croix Valley and the public at large.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t see an official press release or media announcement of a new business emphasizing the iconic beauty of the river, particularly the view from the downtown showplace, Lowell Park.

Experience has taught me to be suspicious of any unrelenting hard sell, especially in this case when the establishment press is involved  and intensely lobbied political and commercial special interests who have ill-advisedly sold their souls to the new bridge idea.

The question raised is apparent. If the new bridge, its configuration and location were all that great, why the need to continue to propagandize it?

Thus, I’ve again reviewed everything received from MnDOT and WISDOT, the press and various private organizations including grand architectural, computer-generated representations, fairly technical engineering-construction specifications, environmental impact studies and anything else I could put my hands on.

My intent with this recent study was to virtually project the view of the river from the park area when the new bridge is imposed upon the scene.

Thus, I dug out my trusty old Army Ranger-CIA special operations Silva compass, and when passing through town on my way home from the VA Medical Center, I went to Lowell Park and walked to an unobstructed area just down river from the old Lift Bridge. To accomplish my purpose with the hand-held Silva, I took azimuth readings from north to south referencing the proposed new bridge location from approved official data.

(Should critics want to challenge my observations magnetic versus true north deviations, yes, I did take declination into consideration. I have confidence in my Silva as it got me across the Florida Straits to and from Cuba several times back in the days of the CIA’s secret war to overthrow Fidel Castro in the 1960s).

From a position approximately 50 meters south of Lowell Park, the scene directly across the river at 90 degrees remained the relatively unspoiled Wisconsin river embankment we now enjoy.

The view north at approximately 45 degrees, presents the old Lift Bridge which is about to become a rusting navigational derelict when no one is willing to continue paying the maintenance price no matter what its use. The most recent cost to Minnesota, according to official reports, is more than $1 million. Given the realities of today’s economics and other revenue priorities, will taxpayers continue to fund this folly?

Looking south approximately 135 degrees, one will see the concrete monstrosity of the new bridge, an urban style, high-speed four-lane industrial-commercial highway, and everything that comes with it, forever desecrating the historic view of the Upper St. Croix River, and squandering our environmental legacy.

In addition to the obvious visual intrusion on this historic natural treasure, the bridge has an insidious impact hidden from the casual observer. I’ve done my share of diving around bridge piers in military-CIA underwater demolitions training and operations. The river bottom, consisting of layers of rock, soil and sediment dating to before the most recent glacial era, will be eroded by the turbulent current and threaten to undermine the bridge’s support; especially during seasonal flooding. The effect on immediate and downstream marine habitat will be devastating. To cope with this engineering/construction reality and the endangerment of the bridge’s stability, massive esthetically unsightly revetments of concrete, steel and wood must be constructed and will be apparent above the surface.  What appears on paper in conceptual photos as soaring monolithic towers will, visually and environmentally, compound the structure’s intrusion on a wilderness waterway.

For the selfish self-serving advocates of the new bridge, this is what you asked for. The new bridge is not only an esthetic and environmental insult on our fragile natural blessings, but will negatively impact on the fundamental quality of life on the Upper St. Croix River and adversely affect the commercial interests of those who so passionately worked to justify its construction. Absence of foresight results in unintended consequences. A history of the community reflects this sort of thinking.

Bradley Ayers, a Stillwater native and a regular guest columnist for the Gazette, writes from his wilderness home in northwest Wisconsin. He is 78 years old and a military-CIA-DEA veteran. He began his journalistic work  with this paper in 1952 while still in high school. His forth-coming, non-fiction book, “Zenith Secret,” delves into the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and will soon be released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s murder.