Friday, June 29, 2007

Chincoteaue Island, Virginia swing bridge

This photo shows the only bridge into the little resort island of Chincoteague on Virginia's Eastern Shore. It is a swing bridge and is shown in the open position (at a right angle to the approach road) so that boats may pass through the Chincoteague Channel. The bridge marks the start of a 4-mile causeway across saltwater wetlands and channels that links the small island to the mainland.

Chincoteague is famous for the wild ponies that have lived for centuries on the adjacent barrier island of Assateague. Each year since 1925, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the ponies, raises funds by having the ponies swim the narrow channel separating the two islands during low tide and auctioning off the young foals. The Pony Swim always occurs in late July. The ponies were also made famous by Marguerite Henry's 1947 children's book, Misty of Chincoteague.

The decades-old swing bridge has deteriorated to the point that a new bridge into the island was proposed many years back by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The various proposals were quite controversial for island residents, so the VDOT was forced to go back to the drawing board. Finally, a new bridge is under construction a few blocks to the right of this photo and is scheduled for opening in the fall of 2009. It will also be a low-level bridge, so it will also have to be opened periodically to allow boats to pass through the channel. The new bridge will align directly with the main road across the island that links it to Assateague Island. Assateague, the home of the ponies, is both a wildlife refuge and a national seahore, with beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and a beautiful brick lighthouse built in 1866-67.

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