A new leaf as pedestrian bridge opens in Lone Tree

Some in Lone Tree praise crossing, while others express scorn

Posted 5/29/18

About 1:15 p.m. on a recent Tuesday afternoon, Zubair Ali walked across Lone Tree's Leaf Pedestrian Bridge from his office on the Charles Schwab business campus and back. At 1:30, three teenage girls …

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A new leaf as pedestrian bridge opens in Lone Tree

Some in Lone Tree praise crossing, while others express scorn

Posted

About 1:15 p.m. on a recent Tuesday afternoon, Zubair Ali walked across Lone Tree's Leaf Pedestrian Bridge from his office on the Charles Schwab business campus and back.

At 1:30, three teenage girls climbed onto the 81-foot tall metallic leaf on the north end of the bridge and lounged briefly on its searing curves in the 80-degree heat.

A few minutes later, three Lone Tree mothers followed their young sons zooming across the bridge on scooters over moderate Lincoln Avenue traffic.

Lone Tree's newest footbridge — crossing Lincoln Avenue just west of Park Meadows Boulevard — is never at any point too busy. Connecting the Schwab campus on the south end to Heritage Hills and Lone Tree Elementary on the north, the bridge with its iconic leaf — either majestic or hideous in the eye of the beholder — is Lone Tree's most noticeable landmark to date. And as the final touches were made last year, it became a model for the city's vision for the future: a more easily accessible city amid miles of congested roads.

"It creates a better sense of unity for residents, employees, visitors — just the access," Mayor Jackie Millet said.

In its first six months of existence, residents admired the bridge from afar. Some eager teens sneaked on the bridge to catch an early preview or test the leaf's climbability. Others waited patiently for their turn to try it out.

On May 15, it finally opened.

Off the bat, Schwab employees and residents alike were relieved to finally have safer access across Lincoln.

"A lot of times, if we wanted to eat something from this side, we would not do that because of the inconvenience of that crossing over there," said Ali, 55, "so we would end up getting something from other there, the other side."

Some excited citizens that same Tuesday afternoon went out of their way to see it firsthand, walking over and back just to gaze at traffic speeding underneath and examine their giant leaf.

The Leaf Pedestrian Bridge isn't only for walkers and Schwab employees. The initial plan for the bridge stemmed from the need to alleviate traffic along Lincoln Avenue by reducing pedestrian crossings at nearby stoplights.

But several other Lone Tree residents see the bridge as a constant reminder of carelessly spent tax dollars. The bridge's price tag is roughly $6.8 million, with the city paying for about half and several partners, including Douglas County and South Suburban Parks and Recreation, footing the bill for the other half.

Dan Murphy of Lone Tree said he appreciated the city council taking steps to improve the city. However, he said, the main benefit of the bridge may not be to greatly improve traffic, as it was first proposed.

"It really was an art piece to welcome people to Lone Tree," Murphy said. "And that might be worth it."

It's too soon to tell the long-term difference the bridge will make on Lincoln Avenue traffic, where some 90,000 motorists commute every day. So far, it's largely unchanged.

In 2015, several residents raised concerns about the fact that no study was done on the bridge's impact on either traffic or pedestrian safety. Millet argued similar infrastructure decisions in Lone Tree were made on the same basis, like the tennis courts near the Lone Tree Arts Center, yet community use increased over time.

Murphy said he wished the city council had been more open to different suggestions for city improvements during the 2015 proposal meetings. He said improvements to the rec center or pickleball courts would have been of greater value to residents.

"I don't think citizens would've answered 'yeah, bridges,'" he said.

Despite what people think now, the bridge and its leaf are here to stay.

"I think for leaders in a community you need to think about the vision for the community and not individuals or individual neighborhoods," Millet said. "Some people who just want to say 'no' are, unfortunately, always going to be negative. If you look at the use that's already started on that bridge ... it's going to be something that continues to grow."

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