The Sydney Lanier Bridge


BRUNSWICK – If ever a structure were appropriately named, it is the Sidney Lanier Bridge, which spans the South Brunswick River on U.S. Highway 17. And if the bearded poet, a native Georgian, could stand at the crest of the mass of concrete and steel of the cable-stayed bridge and visually survey the marshes of Glynn, in both directions, he would surely be overcome by the view.

Since it was opened in 2003, I have crossed the bridge countless times, but I decided recently it was time to walk the four-lane thoroughfare in honor of the poet whose verses in “The Marshes of Glynn” and “The Song of the Chattahoochee” stimulate deep pride in being a native of this state.

Accompanying me was Anne Minter, the pretty wife of Jim Minter, the former editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Anne is an avid walker. Jim, like my wife, Myrna, has knee issues and chose to stay home while Anne and I got a cardiovascular stir with the bonus of a glorious view of this beautiful section of our state. Anne and Jim are wonderful hosts who not only enjoy laid-back living, but who also have curious minds and engaging conversational styles.

We join them here for relaxation, but there is always something new to explore. St. Simons has a comforting allure. Break-neck construction has subsided, but whenever it regenerates, St. Simons will always be a place to idle.

While I don’t have a bucket list, I always enjoy new experiences, even when it comes to old haunts. Coming here over the years, I have enjoyed climbing the lighthouse in the village and communing with the seagulls on the pier at the end of Mallery Street.

Ever visit Little St. Simons? Most visitors skip it, but it is worth the boat trip over to see this enclave of nature, which once was inhabited by the Guale Indians who found peace and solitude among the countless red cedar trees.

A descendant of one of the owners once said that Little St. Simons “should be preserved and not destroyed by either industrial or tourist activities.” I vote a resounding “Aye.”

There are many who come this way for the abundant golf courses and luxury living at Sea Island, and while I don’t object to such, I prefer Little St. Simons, fishing on Christmas Creek, having dinner at the Frederica House, and enjoying a 1.7-mile walk over the Sidney Lanier Bridge where your emotions are tweaked by the smooth running waters of the river and the view beyond — the picturesque marshes.

As a Georgian, I am thankful for the marshes of Glynn and for Sidney Lanier and the bridge named in his memory. The bridge is a wonderful outdoor venue on a sunny Sunday morning for walkers and joggers who get in their exercise as the traffic whizzes by.

Not sure if old Sidney would take the bitter with the sweet — that cacophonous roar of traffic conflicting with the beauty of the marshes and the river — but a walk over the bridge offers an inner cleansing and an appreciation for the good things in life.

Before the current Sidney Lanier Bridge was completed, there was a draw bridge over the South Brunswick River that experienced tragedy on Nov. 7, 1972, when the African Neptune, a cargo ship, crashed into the bridge, knocking out a section of the structure, dumping cars into the water, and taking 10 lives.

There is plenty of room for big ships to pass underneath the bridge today and for river pilots to make sure ships stay on course. There is space for joggers and walkers to traverse the South Brunswick River and enjoy a scene that Sidney Lanier put in perspective for us long before latent technology became a distraction.

Yep, we saw one lady fiddling with her iPhone as she walked. Although I can’t say for certain, I am inclined to believe that the bearded poet would take umbrage at such conduct.

[For 36 years the sideline radio reporter for the Georgia Bulldogs, Loran Smith now covers a bigger sideline of sports personalities and everyday life in his weekly newspaper columns.]