The pedestals have been erected, the plaques attached and the banners are flying on Southwest Madison Avenue between Ninth Street and 11th Street.
Wednesday folks tried to gather some perspective on the 45-year effort to put together the Gateway Walk, a pedestrian bridge between the Willamette River, downtown and Oregon State University. Assisted by the nine-piece Beaver Country Hot Air Band.
“This is an exciting day for the Madison Avenue Task Force,” said Doug Eaton of the effort by the group that formed in 1974 and worked tirelessly to put the walk together.
Eaton also delved into city and OSU history in noting the pioneers who helped make the walk happen. OSU President Robert MacVicar. Corvallis Mayor Don Walker. Jim and Ruth Howland.
OSU President Ed Ray noted one of the other themes of the day: connection.
“The path of Madison Avenue, from the Willamette River to Lower Campus to Benton Hall, represents connection to the community,” said Ray, who also referenced the $25,000 that Corvallis and Benton County residents ponied up in 1885 to pay for the land that became OSU and to build one of its most iconic buildings, Benton Hall.
“That was a critical time,” Ray said. “OSU and the city have been inextricably linked for 150 years. And no doubt those connections will last for another 150 years.”
“OSU would not be here but for the city of Corvallis,” said Mayor Biff Traber after reading a proclamation honoring the completion of the Gateway Walk and OSU’s 150th anniversary. “The city and OSU worked together to do this. We would not be the city we are without that connection.”
Traber also noted the earlier Gateway Walk improvements — the signs, bulb-outs, landscaping — that preceded this final stage of the project.
Natalie Long, representing the Associated Students of Oregon State University, told the audience of more than 100 that she arrived in Corvallis at the end of a tiring Pacific Northwest college search trip with her father. OSU had not been on her list, but the Tempe, Arizona, native said she fell in love with Corvallis.
“Why Corvallis? Especially given all the rain,” Long asked before answering her own question. “The answer is simple: community. They value preservation, education and history.”
At the close of the 25-minute ceremony task force members passed out buttons to commemorate the event. The artwork on the buttons is of the Madison Avenue gates to the Lower Campus.
In May 1940 the Corvallis Garden Club put on a four-day show to raise the $1,500 needed to pay for the gates. Not unlike Corvallis and Benton County collecting $25,000 to start a college or a plucky task force persevering for 45 years to fulfill a dream of connection.