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MailTribune.com
  • Turning a vision into reality

    Takelma elder sees dragonfly bridge connecting trails over the Rogue
  • GOLD HILL — A Takelma Indian elder who helped revive a sacred salmon ceremony in 1994 hopes to rally support to build a dragonfly-shaped bridge she said she saw in a vision last year.
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  • GOLD HILL — A Takelma Indian elder who helped revive a sacred salmon ceremony in 1994 hopes to rally support to build a dragonfly-shaped bridge she said she saw in a vision last year.
    Agnes Baker-Pilgrim, the oldest known descendant of the Takelma Indians who inhabited much of what is now southwestern Oregon before the arrival of Europeans, has set out to talk about her vision with affected jurisdictions and representatives from local tribes.
    She said the project would pay tribute to her ancestors and provide a needed connection between the Bear Creek and Rogue River greenways, which would connect over the water.
    Still a preliminary idea, the dragonfly bridge would fit in with master planning for the Bear Creek Greenway, conducted in 2009 and 2010 by OBEC Engineering, which defined a need for a bridge to connect the trail systems and provide access over the Rogue River.
    The dragonfly, said Baker-Pilgrim, is symbolic to her people and would be a focal point for visitors and locals alike.
    "I had a vision last year, and I saw the dragonfly over the river, and I didn't understand why I even saw it at first, because I had never seen anything like it in my life," Baker-Pilgrim said.
    Shortly after the vision, Gold Hill resident Steve Kiesling, a key supporter of a whitewater park near the area along Upper River Road, met with Baker-Pilgrim to discuss a bridge and other plans for the area.
    Once Kiesling learned about Baker-Pilgrim's idea for the bridge, artist Jim Waddell worked with her to create a conceptual drawing.
    "Steve came over to my house and said, 'Gold Hill is going to need a bridge over the river, and they don't know where yet, but they know they need one.' I knew right then that was what I had seen. I saw it clear as day. The spirit even said to me, 'Don't mess with the rookery where the birds have been coming, and don't put it where the fish run,'"‰" said Baker-Pilgrim.
    "There has always been agreement that a key thing for both greenway systems is a bridge to go across the river," said Kiesling. "Everyone has spent a couple years deciding where it was going to go. And then Gramma Aggie had this vision, and she said, 'It goes right here!'"‰"
    Jeff Barnardo, OBEC Engineering's Medford office manager, said his firm had done some basic drafting, pro bono, for Kiesling and Baker-Pilgrim, showing that a bridge would likely work in the area pinpointed in the drawing.
    "OBEC was involved in an effort through state parks to identify the need for a bridge over the Rogue River in this vicinity, so when Steve called us, we agreed to spend a few hours just to do a rough draft and show what it might look like," Bernardo said.
    "They've identified a need, but there is, to my knowledge, no funding or anything yet. We feel like it can be done, that's for sure, but it's a matter of money at this point."
    Bernardo said such a bridge would create impetus to connect the two trail systems and create momentum for other improvements in the area.
    "Creating that connection across the river with a bridge like that would create a lot of clarity and definition and provide some momentum in getting that final section of trail completed," Bernardo said.
    Kiesling said the bridge would be a local monument and a draw for visitors.
    "Gramma really hopes to see the bridge built during her lifetime, and I'd like to see that, too," Kiesling said, adding, "I'm just really glad that, in her vision, Gramma saw kayakers using the river."
    Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.
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