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Arts & Culture

Bridge Day Canceled For Second Straight Year

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Eric Douglas
/
WVPB
Spectators watch BASE jumpers leap from the New River Gorge Bridge at a recent Bridge Day.

Bridge Day has been canceled for the second year in a row. The Bridge Day Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to cancel the event for 2021, according to media reports.

Earlier in the day, the Fayette County Commission announced in a statement that it would vote to cancel the event this year, citing a small group of individuals who acted to influence the coordinators of the BASE jumping to cancel the group’s participation.

Just last week, the BASE jumper coordinators, Mark Kissner and Marcus Ellison, notified the Bridge Day Commission in a letter that they would not be participating this year. They outlined concerns from local citizens and also their own safety when it comes to access to the hospitals in the event of an emergency due to overcrowding with COVID patients.

The county commission disputed those points in its statement, saying “it is not” because COVID numbers were getting worse, or safety concerns or that local hospitals urged the county commission or the Bridge Day commission to cancel, “because they did not.”

They said they were voting to cancel because, without the participation of the BASE jumpers, Bridge Day would not be the same. The statement went on to say that the Fayette County Commission would “act promptly to implement changes to the Bridge Day Commission Bylaws and take all necessary action to ensure in the future no individual or small group has the power to unilaterally influence a decision that affects not just Fayette County, but also Bridge Day attendees and participants, neighboring counties, the State of West Virginia and the National Park Service.”

On Sept. 15, the Bridge Day commission voted 4-2 to move forward with Bridge Day despite protests from the EMS and health care community.

Those groups questioned the logic of holding Bridge Day, even with masking requirements. Their concerns included that hospitals are nearing capacity in the county, and any outbreak or injury during the Bridge Day event could overwhelm the system.

Just 10 days prior to that vote, the town of Oak Hill, also in Fayette County, canceled the last day of the Oak Leaf Festival. Several workers and volunteers tested positive for COVID-19 at the earlier festival.

Bridge Day is a major tourist attraction for the region. It brings as many as 100,000 people to walk the bridge and watch the jumpers each fall.

Organizers said they will begin planning for 2022.


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