ONWARDS AND UPWARDS: Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson, State Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Federal MP Kevin Hogan turn the first sods for the new Harwood Bridge.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS: Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson, State Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Federal MP Kevin Hogan turn the first sods for the new Harwood Bridge. Clair Morton

First sods turned on Harwood Bridge project

THE FIRST sods for Harwood's new crossing over the Clarence River were turned today by Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, State MP Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson, to officially mark the start of work on what will be the biggest bridge between Ballina and Woolgoolga.

Cr Williamson said while it was a national project, for those in the Clarence Valley the new crossing would first and foremost be a local road.

"It will save lives and... will change the way we move through the Clarence Valley, and the east coast of New South Wales," he said.

"This is a real engineering marvel... and really will be iconic for this area," Mr Gulaptis added.

50th Anniversary of the existing Harwood Bridge

THE project milestone comes the same week as the 50th anniversary of the first Harwood Bridge, which was officially opened to traffic on August 20, 1966.

To commemorate the anniversary, six local men who worked on the original bridge joined this morning's celebrations and were presented with a cake to honour their hard work half a decade ago.

Fifty years ago, Yaegl Land Council chairperson Eileen McLeay was too shy to cut the ribbon at the opening of the first Harwood Bridge.

She may one day get a second chance.

Ms McLeay, who gave the Welcome to Country, was a 13-year-old student at Maclean Public School at the time of the original bridge's opening, and vividly remembers walking from Ferry Park for the celebration.

On arrival, she and a young boy called Terry Randall were singled out and invited to cut the ribbon, but nervously declined.

MAKING HISTORY: Yaegl Land Council CEO Noeline Kapeen and chairperson Eileen McLeay, who was too shy to cut the ribbon when the first Harwood Bridge opened 50 years ago.
MAKING HISTORY: Yaegl Land Council CEO Noeline Kapeen and chairperson Eileen McLeay, who was too shy to cut the ribbon when the first Harwood Bridge opened 50 years ago. Clair Morton

Sir Roden Cutler, the longest serving Governor of New South Wales who took the honour instead, but if Ms McLeay got a second chance to be a part of history when construction of the new bridge was complete, she wouldn't hesitate, she said.

"I'm a bit older and wiser now," she laughed.

A community celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Harwood Bridge will be held at the Harwood pub from noon on Saturday, with old photographs and information on the history and building of the bridge on display.



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