WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – City leaders cut the ribbon to open a roadway that’s been a long time coming for neighbors in Wilmington’s northside.
Neighbors of Love Grove are calling it a historic day for their community.
“Today we are looking at what will be history on tomorrow,” exclaimed Lynda McMillan who has spent years working to see the bridge a reality.
The new Memorial bridge is open to vehicles and pedestrians. It’s a day neighbors thought would never come.
“There have been lots of projects here in the community itself but this is the one that they really, really wanted,” said Ronald Davis who sits on the Love Grove Bridge committee.
Building the bridge comes as a sign of relief to the community who for decades has only been accessible one way and over train tracks. Love Grove has only been accessible through 11th street since it became a subdivision of north Wilmington. The neighborhood has always been a vibrant African-American neighborhood that has welcomed diverse neighbors in the past years. Neighbors that all lived with the same fear until Sunday.
“Many times we wonder if there’s some type of emergency like a fire or somebody has to go to the hospital there’s no other route,” said Joy Williamson who lives in Clarendon Park. “So we are grateful that we have this new route here and this new bridge and we are so thankful for it.”
That day finally came in June of 2013 when a train derailed and left Love Grove stranded. It sparked a “no more” mentality with neighbors and that next year, plans to build the bridge were pushed through Wilmington City Council.
“I sat at the tracks, in my car trying to get to Georgia, could not get across the tracks because the train had me held hostage,” yelled Lynda McMillan reflecting on the frustration of that day as she was meant to attend her brother’s funeral but was trapped.
Nearly five years and more than a year of construction has brought more than a bridge to this neighborhood, but a symbol of perseverance by the community.
Those who fought for the bridge hopes the generations after them recognize its symbolism.
“It let’s them know that things are worth fighting for just don’t stop,” said Davis.
The bridge was made possible by a 2014 bond referendum that put money in the transportation for the $5 million project.