Glen Ellen steps up to illuminate Jim Berkland Bridge

A little warming glow has come back into the long COVID winter in Glen Ellen.

The Grinch who tried to steal Christmas failed this year, as glittering white lights of hope have come on again on the Jim Berkland Bridge. This grey steel truss bridge on Arnold Drive at the north edge of the former Sonoma Developmental Center is a symbol of the late Berkland’s love of the town, its history and unique charm.

Now the bridge has been illuminated by locals to inspire the community during the winter holiday season.

Here's the back story. PG&E gifted Glen Ellen with these sweet sparkling lights in 2017 and again in 2018. The gesture was appreciated, and the town now would like to integrate the symbol of light and optimism into its holiday traditions.

The approach to the Jim Berkland bridge in Glen Ellen.
The approach to the Jim Berkland bridge in Glen Ellen.

Planning started in October, but challenges arose. Then in a period of about 72 hours, the town of Glen Ellen raised $10,000, arranged the electricity, engaged a lighting company from San Francisco, organized the insurance and indemnity and installed the lights. County supervisors were consulted. The state was engaged. Traffic control officers were hired. Power was a “go” then a “no” and at the last minute a “go” again.

Guys from Christmas Lighting Pros of San Francisco arrived in Glen Ellen at 7 a.m. on Dec. 2, where they carefully threaded white icicle lights along the steel pathways, then above in the overhanging rafters, creating a glittering light bridge over the waters beneath.

The lighting is on a photocell timer to respond to the changing light, so is expected to light up at sundown around 5 p.m. and turn off at first light, around 7 a.m. The warm lighting will welcome socially distanced commuters, masked shoppers, and community members back to town at the end of the day.

The illuminating treat was not an easy task to pull off, but the energy and good will of the Glen Ellen Forum community group, and Glen Ellen resident Leslie Vaughn in particular, have made it happen. Now the lights welcome everyone, providing a warm glow after a long day.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and Santa has brought a little light to Glen Ellen.

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