Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Halcyon Pre-Machete Days

The third time was the charm on the T-Pot bridge.

My first two forays out on it had been on overcast days but with today's sunshine beckoning, I figured why not head down there and see just whether my only issue with it - how blinding its metal surface might potentially be - was justified.

Totally. Bright, really, really bright reflections and it's two weeks until Winter Solstice, so we're talking the least effective sun of the year. I actually felt sorry for those without sunglasses or hats to shade their eyes.

Then I spotted him, just ahead of me. Something about the fact that he was carrying a level, a measuring device and a sheaf of important-looking papers purposefully told me this guy meant business. Naturally, I had to ask.

And that's how I wound up meeting the landscape architect for the T-Pot bridge and, in my usual non-shy way, proceeded to engage him in impromptu Q & A session right there on the bridge with the river noisily rushing over the dam beneath us.

Yes, he agreed that the metal walkway was incredibly bright but he also explained that they had to use aluminum because steel would have been so heavy that they'd have needed to build expensive new supports for it.

But he also reminded me that over time dirt, the elements and usage would darken it, resulting in a patina that would be far less reflective.

Okay, I could buy that.

My next question was about the stepped retaining wall at the south end of the bridge. Right now it looks like new concrete and scattered dirt, but I couldn't help but hoping he had more of a living wall in mind.

Yep, Virginia Creeper will be planted and no doubt soon obscure every trace of concrete with its native species hardiness.

When I commented on the south end tree planting I'd seen on previous visits, he assured me there was a lot more to come and, in fact, he figured by the time the ornamental grasses over-winter for a season or two, it'll be a jungle up there.

"People will be telling us to get the machetes out, I guarantee it," he said with a smile. "It's going to be dense."

I was glad to hear it because that area behind Sun Trust Bank has always seemed barren and uninviting to me, kind of like a parking lot path thrown down in the wild.

Once I'd shared what I'd observed about all the foot traffic on my prior visits, he thanked me for my kind words.

After climbing to the overlook, then making the loop while dodging construction vehicles and men planting things, I headed back down the steep brown wooden steps past a liver-colored beagle, only to encounter my new landscape architect friend again, this time measuring along one of the promontories, probably for some sort of guard rail for idiots.

I asked him if I could call him Richmond's version of Frederic Law Olmstead, the man considered the father of American landscape architecture.

"No, no," he said laughing, but clearly pleased at the comparison to the man who designed Central Park and Golden Gate Park. "I mean, you can say that if you want to." I want to, I told him.

"We have the same trajectory, but not the same elevation, how about that?" he said.        

How about it? I've always found that modesty becomes a talented man.

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