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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Kirby Edmonds Bridge - Building Bridges of History & Community

Thu, September 21, 2023 5:54 PM | Anonymous

As a final bridge post we wanted to share a bit about the recently renamed 'Kirby Edmonds Bridge' over Route 13. Originally built in 2001 as a pedestrian bridge to connect the east side of the highway to Buttermilk Falls State Park as part of a planned 'Gateway Trail'. The bridge existed for more than a decade without a corresponding trail on either side. Without access, or a trail that led to it the turquoise metal truss structure came to be known by locals as the "bridge to nowhere".

In 2022 Ithaca Town Supervisor (and former director of The History Center in Tompkins County) Rod Howe approached city officials with the idea of naming the bridge after local educator and activist Kirby Edmonds who has passed away in 2020. This suggestion came as concrete plans to connect the bridge to the Black Diamond Trail were again being pursued with active interest. Edmonds was a leader, educator, and thoughtful contributor in community justice efforts for over 40 years. A co-founder and leader within Training for Change, the Dorothy Cotton Institute, Be the One, Ithaca's Comprehensive Plan Committee, and decades of work supporting local youth through programs at GIAC and the Ithaca Youth Bureau.

One of the key programs Kirby spearheaded the creation of was 'Building Bridges' collective network. Building Bridges, established in the 20-teens, was a self-described collective action network of over 65 organizations across Tompkins County that shared common goals of social and environmental justice work but rarely communicated or collaborated with each other.

Kirby's life-long work to create an interconnected network of social solutions in our community that lead to equity and justice for all, will now be preserved through the physical network of the Kirby Edmonds Bridge connecting our community through the paths we walk. Kirby's voice and thoughtful perspectives on equity and justice is preserved in our oral history archives, through a 2018 interview.

We hope this year's Traverse Tompkins has made you think a bit as you've crossed a bridge in your regular travels around our County, and that you'll think more about the connections bridges bring for everyone and the work done to remember the builders and the bridges themselves.

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