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Bill Macfadyen: About Our Cold Spring Canyon Bridge Series

Noozhawk provides some insight on the story behind the stories

Many of us who drive across San Marcos Pass cross Cold Spring Canyon Bridge with no thought of stopping, or even slowing.

If we’re heading north into the Santa Ynez Valley, we might be taking in the majestic view, where oak trees dot the far-off valley floor like a massive herd of grazing bison. If we’re heading south to Santa Barbara, maybe we’re exhaling after an intense jockeying for position as Highway 154’s passing lanes give way to single file over the structure.

Since the bridge opened in 1964, however, 53 people — most of them our neighbors, actually — did choose to stop there, their last act before ending their lives in a 420-foot fall. Countless others have been saved from certain death, either by quick-thinking passers-by or law-enforcement personnel, or second thoughts.

Last year, Caltrans approved plans to erect 9-foot-7-inch suicide prevention barriers along the sides of the bridge. In pressing for the fencing, law-enforcement agencies and mental health organizations cited public safety and concerns over the number of suicides taking place on the bridge. In a cruel twist, 2009 also happened to be the structure’s deadliest year.

While acknowledging that measures must be taken to prevent suicide attempts, barrier opponents are challenging the bridge project’s approval on procedural grounds. Led by the preservationist group, Friends of the Bridge, the opponents prefer more human intervention through closed-circuit cameras and a call-and-speaker box system.

It’s a complicated topic, and an understandably emotional one.

And that’s why Noozhawk is taking an in-depth look at Cold Spring Canyon Bridge and the barrier system, in a four-day series by reporters .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) that begins Monday.

Lara and Giana focused on bridge facts, the barrier process and the community debate, but the reason behind this project was never far from their minds. They went to the most involved sources and contacted psychological experts and media guidelines to be as responsible as they could in their reporting on the topic of suicide. In addition to four days of articles, they’ve compiled lists of resources for those who may need help, and we’ll publish those each day.

We hope to enhance the broader discussion about the issues at stake with this particular project, but we know that the remedial actions taken will not make the tragic problem of suicide in our community go away. Each of us must shoulder responsibility to make a difference there. Fortunately, the resources are plentiful and you can click here to learn more.

Please let me know what you think. Thank you for reading our Cold Spring Canyon Bridge series.

Noozhawk’s Cold Spring Canyon Bridge Series

» Click here for free suicide prevention resources that are available 24 hours a day.

» Click here for the first story in Noozhawk’s four-day series on Cold Spring Canyon Bridge: Public Safety, Preservation Collide on Cold Spring Canyon Bridge.

» Click here for Day Two’s main story: Creativity a Hallmark of Bridge Barrier Alternatives, Funding.

» Click here for Day Three’s main story: For Barrier Opponents, There’s No Bridging This Divide.

» Click here for Day Four’s main story: Bridge Barrier Debate May Be Resolved in Span of a Month.

» Click here for a timeline of Cold Spring Canyon Bridge.

» Click here for a list of the various suicide prevention measures that were considered.

» Click here for a list of landmark bridges around the world employing suicide-prevention barriers.

» Click here for Cold Spring Canyon Bridge facts and engineering numbers.

» Leading Off: Just What Can We Say, and How? Suicide is a touchy topic for the media. Here’s what Noozhawk does, and why.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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