GREAT FALLS — After a few years of being unable to meet in-person for the last few years due to COVID precautions, the organization, Preservation Cascade hosted a reunion and celebration as they reflected on their tradition in promoting preservation values through education while cooperating with public and private entities to achieve common goals.
The topic of discussion was the historic Tenth Street Bridge.
"We have really missed that the last couple of years," said Preservation Cascade Vice-President, Bill Hunter. "Putting on the whole thing and talking about the bridge and how it's been coming along. It's all been very nice."
During the meeting, Arlyne Reichert announced she will be stepping down as President of the organization.
Reichert, otherwise known as the "Bridge Lady" fought for many years to preserve the 10th Street Bridge. It is known to be Montana’s longest and oldest open-spandrel, ribbed-concrete arch bridge.
Her work to save the bridge began in 1996 when the city built the Eagle Falls Bridge across the Missouri River and closed the Tenth Street Bridge, slating it for demolition.
Reichert created the nonprofit Preservation Cascade to raise money and guide efforts to save and restore the bridge.
“In 1996, when we first heard about it being torn down, quite a few people became backers and proponents of saving it,” Reichert explained. “We realized that we had to have a non-profit organization that could help raise funds to save the bridge, so that was the inspiration. Preservation Cascade had about 90 people sign a petition, and it became very popular early on. Now today we have thousands, thousands of supporters."
A couple years ago, a proposal to rename the bridge to a more fitting name - the Arlyne Reichert Community Heritage Bridge (ARCH for short) - was approved during a City Commission meeting.
Speaking on her retirement, Hunter said, "She's always on time, her memory is amazing and knows lots of people here in town. One thing Arlyne always has done is anybody who has donated money, she writes a 'Thank You' letter to them, and she has agreed to keep writing the 'Thank You' letters. It's amazing what it does when you get that 'Thank You' letter for whatever you've done for the bridge. She's always been very punctual, and her meetings never went beyond an hour."
Preservation Cascade, Inc. (PCI) was inspired by the citizen crusade to save the 10th Street Bridge from demolition. Originally, the "Save the Bridge Committee" was under the backing of the Cascade County Historical Society. When the "Bridge" members decided to expand their interests and responsibilities in preservation, an independent organization was founded with the blessing of the Cascade County Historical Society.
Hunter noted that efforts continue to move forward to preserve the bridge as well as educating others on its historical significance.
"Years past, the Smelter Stack was blown down because they didn't think the structure was solid. Of course, it took them two explosions to make that happen. I really feel that if they hadn't done the smokestack, probably the bridge may not have still been here. Maybe, maybe not, I don't know. There were probably fewer and fewer things to celebrate and preserve, although we're lucky here in Great Falls to have hollow buildings and things like that. The 10th Street Bridge has taken years, and it's really neat to see it finished and people using it."
To learn more about Preservation Cascade Inc, and their efforts, you can head over to their website: https://www.montanas-archbridge.org/index.html