On March 19, 1963, the Nutty Narrows Bridge opens in Longview. The structure, designed to look like a tiny suspension bridge, has a deck wide enough for squirrel traffic only. Conceived and built by contractor Amos Peters (d. 1984), it allows the creatures to get across the busy thoroughfare of Olympia Way without getting squashed by cars. Squirrels immediately take to the bridge and will later be seen teaching their young how to use it. In 2005 the bridge will be moved about 100 yards east. It will be repaired and moved four times, until returned to close to its original location. In 2014 the by-now world-famous Nutty Narrows Bridge will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Squirrels and Their Nuts
Amos Peters conceived the bridge after seeing one too many squirrels killed while dodging traffic on the way across Olympia Way. Workers at the Park Plaza Office Building would leave out nuts for them, and this prompted them to run across.
The bridge was designed by architects Robert Newhall and LeRoy Dahl, engineered by Donald Kramer, and built by Amos Peters and Bill Hutch. It is 60 feet across and was built from aluminum tubing with a fire hose pulled over it for the roadway. The original bridge spanned Olympia Way on the west end of the library grounds between two huge oak trees. Total cost of construction was $1,000.
The bridge immediately became widely known among humans and had write-ups in newspapers from around the world. Animal lovers sent Peters fan mail and bags of nuts. 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" (City of Longview website).
A City and Its Squirrels
In 1983, a year before his death, Peters took down the bridge and repairs were made, crosspieces were replaced, and the sign was repainted. The bridge was re-dedicated with special guests Chip 'n' Dale and Mickey Mouse from Disneyland in attendance, as well as 300 children, and various Longview dignitaries.
After Peters died, a large wooden squirrel was placed near the spot of the original bridge to commemorate his vision and concern for the small creatures of the earth. In 2005 the bridge had to be moved about 100 yards east, since its anchorages (the oak trees) were infested with mites and dying. In all, the bridge was relocated four times due to problems with the structural supports. Its latest move returned it to close to its original location.
In 2014 the famous Nutty Narrows Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places.