Countdown to Happy 75 Begins

Exactly one year out, officials unveiled their plans to throw the Golden Gate  Bridge a 75th anniversary celebration befitting an icon of the  septuagenarian's stature.

The extended fete will be anchored by a two-day festival over  Memorial Day weekend in 2012. A new visitors' pavilion will be built in the  current parking lot, and renovations will be made to the existing facilities  at one of the world's most recognizable 1.2-mile stretch of road.

The last time this much was made of the bridge was 24 years ago for its 50th anniversary. Back then a record number of people turned out to walk on the bridge, and for a time there was a concern the weight of all that love could damage the structure. In the end, the bridge lowered several feet just like the designers said it would.

Two new vantage points will also be added to the San Francisco  waterfront, and 75 community partners will be chosen to pay tribute to the  bridge in unique and creative ways.

The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy Friday presented the  proposal, which was approved unanimously by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway  and Transportation District board of directors. The Presidio Trust and  National Park Service are also collaborating on the events.

"I'm thrilled the ideas were embraced," conservancy executive  director Greg Moore said. "I think the board can see that collectively we can  improve the bridge experience for visitors."

San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer and philanthropist Nancy  Bechtle are chairing the 75th anniversary committee, which launched a new  website today, the bridge's 74th birthday.

Baer, a fourth-generation San Franciscan, said he has loved the  bridge ever since he was a kid growing up in the Richmond District.

"You come home -- like after one of your key players gets injured  -- and find solace with the bridge," he said, referring to catcher Buster  Posey's potentially season-ending leg fracture during a game on Wednesday.

The Giants have already signed on to be among the 75 community  partners devising creative ways to honor the bridge.

The Marin Symphony is also commissioning and performing a piece  for the bridge, Moore said, and the anniversary committee is soliciting  proposals for other projects until June 20.

Most of the tributes will take place between April and October of  2012.

On May 26-27, 2012, a two-day festival will be centered on the  city's waterfront to evoke the bridge's historic opening fiesta, which was  held at Crissy Field in 1937.

The entire project is estimated to cost about $5 million for  physical improvements and $3 million for the anniversary program, Moore said.  The bridge will remain open to traffic throughout the celebration.

Funding will be provided by corporate and media sponsors, the  parks conservancy, and philanthropic foundations, two of which have already  pledged donations to the overlook projects, he said.

The construction and renovation should be done in time for the  America's Cup sailing events in 2012 and 2013.

"It's going to be a wonderful time," bridge district board  president Janet Reilly said.

More information about the anniversary is available at

Bay City News

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