For more than a decade, the bridge that once connected the main highway through Lake Lure has remained dormant from vehicles of longtime residents and passerby visitors. But, in its place now resides a space of connectivity, cultivation, and community.
“The bridge has become an attraction that our community is proud of,” said Debbie Clark. “The community came together to create it, and they continue to volunteer their services and stay committed to the bridge—this sense of pride and accomplishment.”
Known as the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, the structure is now home to more than 30 different gardens maintained by community members. In total, there are around 2,000 distinct types of flowers and plants represented along the walking path that occupies the bridge, and which also includes murals, garden art, and other structures.
“The bridge development and construction became an object of pride, community involvement, and a way to save the old bridge by creating something beautiful out of it,” said Clark, the marketing chair for the LLFB.
“People come into our community to enjoy the flowers, but the bridge also helps our economy because people will visit local stores and restaurants, and stay in rentals.”
Each year, tens of thousands of people come and wander through the garden, which has become a pillar of the community’s cultural and artistic identity. For Clark, the LLFB was—and continues to be—a source of artistic inspiration and natural beauty. It’s also why she and her husband decided to call Lake Lure home several years ago.
“We visited the Lake Lure area about 25 years ago. We thought the area was beautiful, clean, and friendly, and we liked the small-town charm,” Clark said. “We started talking about moving somewhere with warmer winters. About six years ago, we found our home, and it was in Lake Lure. There are so many things to do in North Carolina; we enjoy the area and all of what the state has to offer.”
As a Lake Lure resident, Clark is not only delighted at the growth of the project, she’s also one of the community gardeners, in addition to being a landscaper, garden writer, and an acclaimed “Master Gardener.”
“I started gardening when I was a little girl. I’ve always been fascinated with the science of how plants grow, bloom, and reproduce, and just being able to be artistic in creating a garden,” Clark said. “And I find that people who visit the bridge are there for many reasons. They love gardening and being surrounded by the beauty of the mountains, forest, flowers, animals, and insects here.”
Built in 1925, the three-arch bridge spans 155 feet over the Broad River. In 2011, when the new bridge was completed for U.S. 64/U.S. 74-A/N.C. 9 and opened to traffic, the old structure might have been dismantled and left to disappear into the annals of history. Luckily, members of Lake Lure stepped up in an effort to not only preserve its past but also perpetuate its future.
“I’m a nature lover and the bridge is my happy place, where I can spend time doing what I love and spend time with others who also enjoy the same things I do,” Clark said. “The bridge gardens are a peaceful, serene place where, for a short period of time, you can forget your problems, have fun with your family or friends, and enjoy what nature has provided for us.”
This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to request your free copy.