Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Vermillion had good reason to be proud Saturday following groundbreaking ceremonies that mark the beginning of construction of the Newcastle/Vermillion bridge across the Missouri River.

Not lost upon those who attended the ceremonies at both the groundbreaking site and at the program held in the National Guard Armory is the historical significance of this project.

The bridge has been discussed, no doubt cussed, and then discussed again for decades. The process has been long and tedious, with its fair share of setbacks.

The bridge is a true example of the wondrous power of tenacity. Those who believed in the project just wouldn't give up, even during times when it seemed some of the more influential people of the state � such as some members of the Legislature in Pierre � termed the span that will link Vermillion and Newcastle as "the bridge to nowhere."

After such a joyous celebration as last Saturday's, it may be easy for the Vermillion community to be lulled into a comforting sense of security.

Now is not the time to rest on our laurels, however.

The bridge is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1, 2001. Officials from Jensen Construction Company, the prime contractor for the bridge and the approach on the South Dakota side leading to the new structure, estimated Saturday that traffic may be moving on the bridge as soon as Labor Day of next year.

What this means is Vermillion only has a little more than a year to prepare for what always have been hoped to be the positive consequences of the new bridge.

It means Vermillion soon will have the chance to acheive a greater potential.

The city, thankfully, is the home of a major state university, and is located on one of the most historical parcels of property in the state.

But one needn't live in Vermillion long to realize that in many ways, the community is incomplete. Its industrial and retail base is somewhat fragile, meaning it's had to rely largely on The University of South Dakota, its largest employer, to help provide economic opportunities.

It's rather unsettling to know that your economic destiny rests largely with the actions of the state Legislature each year.

That's why it's so important for Vermillion to expand its retail trade territory. That's why the bridge is a necessity.

A major premise behind the dogged pursuit of the needed federal and state funds for the bridge project has been "if you build it, they will come."

Vermillion has wisely made sure that Newcastle citizens have been part of recent community celebrations, so they can get a good look at what this community is all about.

Late last November, for example, interested Newcastle residents traveled here by bus to participate in Vermillion's annual Home for the Holidays activities that kicked off the Christmas shopping season.

That's just one example of how Vermillion can increase attendance and public participation at numerous events important to the community. We have lots to share, such as special happenings like the Vermillion Summer Arts Festival or the upcoming dedication of the Lewis and Clark Spirit Mound Learning Center at the W.H. Over Museum late next month.

People from the Newcastle area, naturally, are welcome here at other, more routine times, not just for special occasions. It has always been hoped that many of the qualities of Vermillion we've grown to enjoy, and perhaps have taken for granted, will also be attractive to our neighbors on Nebraska's "northern coast."

When USD hosts a football or basketball game in the DakotaDome, we'll welcome the cheers of Newcastle fans. When the Shrine to Music Museum holds a Brown Bag Lunch musical event, chairs will be waiting for interested Nebraska music lovers.

There is a danger that Vermillion must recognize, however. Shoppers from the Newcastle area may find the bridge will make it just that more easy for them to travel to stores in Yankton or Sioux Falls � unless, of course, there are worthwhile shopping opportunities here. Now is the time for citizens to begin studying ways to enhance retail trade in Vermillion.

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