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‘n’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 trees housing the bridge developed disease in 2005 and had to be taken down. Today the tree branches housing the Nutty Narrows meet in the Civic Circle, extending across the streets between the front of the library and R.A. Long Park.