The Cribari Bridge — Of Flowers?

Mark Kramer spent 3 decades as a writer-in residence at Smith College, Boston University and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. He also enjoyed a storied career as a book and magazine writer, editor, speaker and consultant.

Mark has not lived in Westport since graduating from Staples High School in 1961. But — as an alert “06880” reader — he notes from afar that “the Saugatuck (Cribari) Bridge is threatened by traffic and time.”

William F. Cribari Bridge. (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

It meant a lot to his childhood — and the town. In 2018, he had an idea for the Cribari Bridge. Following the state Department of Transportation’s recent decision to build a new bridge — or hand it over to the town, which would be responsible for its repair, maintenance and upkeep — Mark revisits that idea. He writes:

The bridge over the Saugatuck is dear to me.

I rode across it every evening — in my pajamas, for quite a stretch — fetching my father (Sidney Kramer, of Save Westport Now and The Remarkable Bookshop) from the 6:12 back from Manhattan.

I fished from it, and kept a dinghy in the swamp grass almost beneath it when I was older.

I watched a crack crew of guys who worked in Saugatuck crank it open with manpower to let boats pass. It’s a human-sized bridge, an amenity to a town where people can still encounter one another on the streets and nod and chat.

Hand-cranking open the William Cribari Bridge.

I lived for a long time in north-central Massachusetts near Shelburne Falls.  There was a trolley bridge over the Deerfield River, and trollies went obsolete. The cement-arched bridge languished for a while.

Then in the ’70s, a visionary group of merchants and neighbors planted it with flowers. It was a hobby at first, but soon enough turned into a business-attracting phenomenon, lavishly planted with a sequence of blooming plants so that from May through October, it now (until a year ago, and starting up again, one hopes, this summer, as the COVID crisis gives way to vaccines and good habits) attracts crowds.

The “Bridge of Flowers.”

They support some good restaurants, craft shops and clothing stores. Westport is less rural, and more vigorously entrepreneurial, and it’s not hard to imagine a development of the Cribari bridge in its own right–perhaps flowers, perhaps eateries, a bandstand, food stalls, and flowers too.

If this intrigued the right group of Westporters, a trip up there would certainly set imaginations going. A committee of neighbors keeps it going, and they’d be glad to share their experience.

Click here for the Bridge of Flowers website. For more information and personal insights, email Mark directly:

An aerial view of the Bridge of Flowers.

13 responses to “The Cribari Bridge — Of Flowers?

  1. Katherine A Calise

    Drake Hill Flower Bridge in Simsbury Ct its beautiful.

  2. Fabulous!

  3. Great idea! Just don’t call it the Bighline 🙂

  4. Michael Calise

    In all of the recent comments regarding the bridge the fact that the bridge needs to be opened on a regular basis for boat traffic. first its an ongoing expense and secondarily it would most likely make alternate uses such as the above (which is a wonderful idea) challenging

  5. Catherine Iffland

    The Ponte Vecchio of Saugatuck! Brilliant idea!

  6. While the Bridge of Flowers is a lovely idea, I believe it is a pedestrian bridge. We still need to solve vehicular traffic across the Saugatuck and boat traffic along it. The Cribari could be relocated somewhere else where its functioning is not an issue and made into an attractive pedestrian destination.

    In the meantime we should be guided by safety, expense, simple mechanics and traffic flow in helping the CT DOT choose an appropriate plan.

  7. Anthony LoFrisco, Jr.

    In my 12 years living in Westport, I’ve seen the Cribari Bridge open maybe once for a boat. At the bridge of flowers in Sherbrook (we’ve been many times and it’s truly beautiful), there are donation bins at opposite ends of the that I assume cover maintenance. If the Cribari Bridge were to become a bridge of flowers, what about the traffic that the current bridge handles? Divert to the Post Road? A second bridge? Assuming those are the only choices, I think best to keep the bridge as it is – a charming and still functional landmark.

  8. The flower bridge at Simsbury, closer to home is also an outdoor art space featuring sculptures and artwork. The bike trail runs by it, and the river below is great for kayaking. Great idea for our town do develop the area around the bridge along these lines.

  9. Great idea! Close off an important local traffic route and re-direct traffic up through town. After all, so little traffic flows over that bridge and on the surrounding roads during mid afternoons and weekends, especially in the summers! And the intersection at Rt 33 and Post Road never has a back up anyway so let’s go! Excellent idea! Just add the cost of the plantings to our tax bills, along with the maintenance costs of the bridge we will then own. Wonderful!

  10. After spending a summer in the Berkshires many summers ago, I can also attest first-hand to the marvel of the Bridge of Flowers, and hope that support for this forward-thinking idea does not wane. The proximity to fab restaurants and the train station could make this a win-win for Saugatuck and Westport should it be at all feasible

  11. Mary Schmerker

    The Cribari Bridge AKA the Bridge Street is near and dear to my heart for so many reasons. Raised in Westport from birth and graduating from Staples, the old, old Staples in 1958 the bridge always meant I was home.
    Admitting that I graduated in 1958 means that I lived through the building of the freeway, saw the devastation to the beauty of area and knew the tears that were shed. Traffic is the issue.

  12. Patrick Church

    Come on Westport buy the damn bridge 🌉. There is so much money in this town cant we keep some of the charm that made all of you move here. Kind of a no Brainer. How upset were we with Osprey nest fiasco? We were pissed off! Same thing.

  13. Perhaps some of you Westporters intrigued with the bridge idea might convene a Zoom meeting and brainstorm together about possibilities and then about how to put concepts into play? I’d be glad to attend the first meeting, though I live near Boston now, and can put you in touch with the bridge folks in Shelburne Falls. With the commercial resources and terrain of Saugatuck and some of the imagination that commutes elsewhere from Westport every weekday, it could really be something. Mark Kramer