Bridge work drastically changes plans for popular United Way race

Officials take news in stride, plan ‘Under the Bridge Run’

While the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge will not be available for the United Way of St. Charles’ 20th Annual Bridge Run/Walk, those seeking to participate have no need to cancel those plans.

The event is still happening, with a few necessary alterations: this year’s event will take place under the bridge and atop the West Bank Mississippi River levee. It is scheduled to take place Saturday, Apr. 9. The I-310 bridge’s southbound lane will be reduced to one-lane for approximately six months, beginning Jan. 31, due to construction.

“It’s the 20th anniversary of an event that the community has really supported and gotten behind,” said Melissa Frederick, United Way of St. Charles’ campaign and marketing manager. “When we got word the bridge would not available, it was not an option for us to not have a race. We wanted to do something for our community that has supported our event for so long.”

By necessity, the course will change. In addition to the run/walk, which usually takes participants across the bridge, being moved to the levee, there will be runners and walkers moving in both directions to alleviate congestion.

There will be a 5K but not be a 10K run this year, and the race will be non-competitive.

One of the biggest changes, however, is the cost: registration will be free of charge this year.

“We want to promote health in our community, and a way to do that is to continue on with a healthy, family-friendly event,” said Tamara Plattsmier, UWOSC’s volunteer and event manager.

Added Frederick: “What better way to (promote health education) to the community than by inviting everyone to participate in a free healthy event where everyone can have a good time, get out and move and spending time with their friends and neighbors.”

The run is partnered with the Crescent City Classic and Huey P. Long Bridge runs as part of a series. Despite the venue change, it will still be part of that bridge run series, and those who participate in all three will receive a medal and special awards after the final race.

Frederick said it was important to continue the event this year, even without the bridge’s availability, so it can maintain its momentum and support. Last year’s event was the bridge run’s largest to date, with more than 2,400 runners and walkers participating.

“It’s not just about celebrating the past 20 years, but also for our next 20 years. We didn’t want people to think the run was just going away,” Frederick said.

A limited number of T-shirts will be given away at the event.

Plattsmier noted the organization is also looking to “amp up” the after party this year, which will include a stage, live music, children’s activities including inflatables and a rock wall, free soft drinks, beer and food, provided by event sponsor Cornerstone Chemical at the West Bank Bridge Park.

The event’s presenting sponsors are Norco Manufacturing Complex and Valero.

“They’re super supportive,” Frederick said. “Even without the bridge, they’re behind us and giving us the opportunity to put on this event for everyone. Our name may be on the event, but this is really a joint effort between United Way and all of our sponsors.”

For more information, call United Way of St. Charles at (985) 331-9063 or e-mail tamarap@uwaysc.org.

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