PIEDMONT -- A Scout's dream has become a reality -- to build a footbridge in Dracena Quarry Park for all to enjoy.
The bridge, which is being built with private donations, is under construction with completion expected in early June. Cole Becker first proposed his idea to the Park Commission in April 2013. The project received final approval from the Piedmont City Council in August 2013. Becker is the son of Mark Becker, who conceived and designed the concept for the new Havens Elementary School.
"I am so excited; this is really great. I was committed to making this bridge happen," said young Becker, who will attain his Eagle Scout badge as a result of the project.
Getting the bridge built was no walk in the park, however. Cole Becker attended at least five public meetings to discuss his plan and faced opposition to it.
One person posted "official looking" notices in the park last year stating reasons why the bridge should not be built. Other people wrote negative letters to news outlets. Mark Becker said he was proud of the way his son handled himself.
"He was acting more adult than some of the adults he dealt with. He took the high road," Mark Becker said, adding that Cole learned all the facets of a project, with mentoring by Cole's Eagle Scout adviser Tim Wooster, who works for Becker.
The details of the project kept changing, and the cost rose from early estimates of $40,000 to a cost of $75,000. So far, $60,000 has been raised in private donations from several entities.
"The construction firm, by law, could not cut us a break (on costs) because of prevailing wage requirements for a city project," Cole Becker said. "There were a few complications with the site we didn't anticipate. Some surveys were wrong, resulting in more concrete, more construction hours."
Parks and Project Manager Mark Feldkamp said Cole handled the project like a pro.
"Cole is an amazing kid. He was very polished. And raised all the funds for it. ... The foundation was poured (earlier this month) and the bridge should be done in three to four weeks," Feldkamp said.
The 65-foot-long, 5-foot-wide bridge is being built with redwood, with 42-inch-high safety railings of black powder coat. It will conform to Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Cole Becker said he and his father originally envisioned a suspension bridge, but that plan was rejected by the city for safety reasons.
The city is bearing the cost of site inspections and engineering review because the project benefits the public, former City Administrator Geoff Grote had said.
Cole Becker said there were more conditions to attain his Eagle badge associated with the project.
"A component was added (by the Scouts) that I had to lead other Scouts to do a project planting trees at the site to replace a few that had to be removed for the bridge," he said.
The Piedmont High senior said he got the idea for the bridge from walks in the park he and his father took when he was young. All that remained were remnants of the old bridge that was dismantled in the 1970s.
"I would stand on the old stone blocks and pretend I was making speeches," Cole Becker said.
While some neighbors expressed concern earlier that the bridge might be a target for vandalism, many agreed, including Feldkamp, council members and commissioners, that the bridge would enhance the park's aesthetics.
"Cole learned what it takes to do a big project and what it takes to finish it," Mark Becker said.
Plans are in the works to mount bridge plaques that would detail its history and another to acknowledge donors.
Mayor Margaret Fujioka praised Cole Becker for a job well done.
"The Dracena bridge is yet another example of how public-private partnerships improve our city in a fiscally responsible way," she said. "Through Cole's vision and perseverance, the park's usability and aesthetics are enhanced for all users."
Another $10,000 in donations would be welcome, Cole Becker said. Donors can submit their checks to the city of Piedmont, 120 Vista Ave., Piedmont, CA 94611, to be deposited in the earmarked "Dracena Bridge fund."