One result of the controversy over the planned construction of a footbridge across the Animas River and over the railroad tracks and 32nd Street was a member of the Herald’s editorial board giving a close reading to the memorial to Gale Emerson and Nick Parks at the eastern end of the bridge.
Until that moment, it was a common case of we know what it says, there is no reason for another look. Happens frequently.
Another look reveals Durango has missed – perhaps for 45 years – that the 32nd Street bridge is actually the Emerson-Parks Memorial Bridge. It is not the park that runs along the Animas south of the 32nd Street bridge – Memorial Park – that is the memorial to Emerson and Parks, it is the bridge.
Here is how the memorial reads: “The Emerson-Parks Bridge, dedicated this 8th day of November 1974 to the memory of Police Cpl Gale Emerson and Fireman Nick Parks in grateful tribute for their service above and beyond the care of duty in making the supreme sacrifice while fighting a fire in the 800 block of Main Avenue on August 24, 1974.”
Milford Shields, the state’s poet laureate and a Durango resident, penned this tribute on the stone, as well:
“This bridge is safety to the other side, a solid safety high above the tide.
Their work was safety, safety was their breath.
They maintained safety even unto death.
This bridge is safety surely in the strife,
Their bridge is safety to all human life.”
That could not be clearer.
Emerson and Parks, both in their early 20s, were killed when a rear wall fell on them while they were fighting the arson-caused fire that eliminated a row of buildings on the west side of the 800 block.
Out of respect for those young men, the community should begin referring to the bridge as the Emerson-Parks Bridge as was intended. 32nd Street can follow in parentheses.
Several county roads have names attached to them, and the Herald’s newsroom policy is to include both the name and the number. La Posta Road (County Road 213) or Lightner Creek Road (County Road 207) is how it is done. Tying history or a geological feature to a road reminds us all of what has gone before or is under our feet. That adds to a community’s character. Even more important when young men have given their lives.
From now on, you will read Emerson-Parks Bridge (32nd Street).
We appreciate numbers for the location sequences that they can provide, but there are times when memorials triumph.
This is certainly one.