San Francisco has its cable cars. Seattle has its Space Needle. And, Longview has its squirrel bridge. The bridge, across Olympia Way near Civic Center circle has attracted international attention and is now a local landmark.
The Nutty Narrows Bridge was built in 1963 by a local builder, the late Amos Peters, to give squirrels a way to cross the busy thoroughfare without getting flattened by passing cars.
The original bridge was built over Olympia Way on the west edge of the library grounds. Before the bridge was conceived and built, squirrels had to dodge traffic to and from the Park Plaza office building where office staff put out a nutty feast for the squirrels. Many times, Peters and others who worked in and near Park Plaza witnessed squirrels being run over.
One day Peters found a dead squirrel with a nut still in its mouth, and that day’s coffee break discussion turned into squirrel safety. The group of businessmen cooked up the squirrel bridge idea and formed a committee to ask the City Council’s blessing. The Council approved, and Councilwoman Bess LaRiviere jokingly dubbed the bridge “Nutty Narrows.” The name stuck!
After architects Robert Newhall and LeRoy Dahl designed the bridge, Donald Kramer completed structural engineering, and Amos Peters and Bill Hutch started construction. They built the 60-foot bridge from aluminum and lengths of fire hose. It cost $1,000.
It didn’t take long before reports of squirrels using the bridge started. Squirrels were even seen escorting their young and teaching them the ropes. The story was picked up by the Associated Press, and Nutty Narrows became known in newspapers all over the world. Animal lovers in London, Minnesota and California sent newspaper clippings, fan mail and bags of nuts to Peters. One man wrote, “Little men take time to cater to big people who might do them good. Only big men pause to aid little creatures.”
In 1983, after 20 years of use, Peters took down the worn-out bridge. Repairs were made and crosspieces were replaced. The faded sign was repainted and in July 1983, furry guests from Disneyland (Chip and Dale and Mickey Mouse), local dignitaries, and 300 children rededicated the bridge.
Peters died in 1984, and a ten-foot wooden squirrel sculpture was placed near the bridge in memory of its builder and his dedication to the project.
The Original Nutty Narrows bridge currently resides on Olympia Way, between 18th Ave and Maple St.
In addition to the Nutty Narrows squirrel bridge, 4 additional bridges have since been built, the most recent bridge was installed in May of 2015. The sixth bridge is in the works.
- Built in 2011, it was designed with copper, and is the first squirrel bridge to utilize a webcam. Located on the 1300 block of West Kessler Blvd.
- John Dick squirrel bridge, inspired by the famous Leonard Zakim bridge. Built in 2012, and located at 2900 Nichols Blvd.
- Built in 2014, located at Louisiana & 23rd Ave, this bridge has a redwood frame and metal roofing and was made to look like a scale model of a bridge fit for people.
- The fifth bridge is located on the 1700 block of Kessler Boulevard. The bridge, built by the Longview-Kelso Bits & Bots robotic team features an industrial look and is made of gleaming steel. It includes colored glass panels of a walker, bicyclist and runner.