BELFAST, Maine — A controversial plan to add benches and lighting to the city’s Armistice Bridge has been put to rest — at least temporarily — after a downtown booster group’s application for a $120,000 national grant failed to advance.
Breanna Pinkham Bebb, executive director of the group Our Town Belfast, told the Belfast City Council this week that national arts foundation ArtPlace passed over Belfast’s letter of inquiry about the bridge grant. The effort to add to the bridge sparked dissent last fall, after veterans groups said that the bridge should not be treated as a recreational facility. It was dedicated in 1921 as a memorial to those who served in World War I.
“It was met with concern,” Bebb said of the idea of having artists design benches for the bridge.
Representatives from veterans groups including the American Legion and AmVets came to the Belfast City Council in December to tell officials they wanted the character of the bridge to remain consistent with its original dedication.
Bebb said Thursday that Our Town Belfast is “still very interested in what goes on with design on and around the bridge, and indeed in the rest of the downtown as well.”
She said that some of the controversy around the benches and lighting on the bridge might have been based on a miscommunication.
“Part of the grant money would have gone toward ‘Please, Be Seated’ projects — creative, artistic, whimsical benches [placed throughout the downtown,]” she said. “I think they thought we were going to use the bridge as a venue for the same type of project, which wasn’t the case.”