Blocking the vista: Some neighbors against temporary screen on bridge

PORTLAND, Ore. - Some neighbors who live near the Vista Bridge are opposed to a planned screen along the bridge's span to stop the growing number of suicides there.

They don't want the screen to block the view.

Four people, including a 15-year-old girl, jumped to their deaths this year from the bridge known for its view of the city and its long history of suicides. The most recent suicide was last Tuesday morning.

Messages of hope written in chalk and on pieces of paper covered the bridge on Saturday.

Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick earlier this month declared an emergency and ordered for the immediate construction of a screen. He said it will be in place by the middle of August, if not sooner. City officials said that the screen is "an interim remedy that can be in place until a longer-term solution and funding can be found."

Mary Valeant is among the Goose Hollow neighbors who don't want a barrier along the Southwest Portland bridge.

"There's no end in sight," said Valeant. "You could call it five years. You could call it temporary. You could call it an emergency, but there's no end in sight. We haven't taken any steps to get to the permanent solution."

Ken Kahn works near the base of the bridge. He said he's been so overwhelmed by the eight suicides he's seen over the years that he formed the group Friends of the Vista Bridge.

"We believe we can raise sufficient volunteers to keep the bridge manned 24/7 until the temporary barrier is in place," Kahn told KATU last week.

Valeant says she and her neighbors want the city to figure out a permanent solution now before putting up the temporary screen that would obstruct the view of the city.

"These things matter. When you live in a city, you sacrifice a lot of connections to the environment."

The Vista Bridge is a National Historic Landmark.

The city is seeking federal or other funding for a permanent barrier that's expected to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million. The temporary screen costs $236,000.