LA CONNER — Viewed one way, adding lights to La Conner’s iconic Rainbow Bridge may be the end of a long-running saga.
Some Skagit County residents hope it’s the beginning of another.
With several hundred lights added to the structure, local officials hope the Rainbow Bridge’s brilliance in the evening makes it an enhanced point of pride for Skagit County residents — and a year-round draw for tourists.
“It’s a million-dollar view,” La Conner Mayor Ramon Hayes said. “The locals love it … We’re hoping for an economic benefit as well.”
The steel-decked Rainbow Bridge arches over the Swinomish Channel and links La Conner and Fidalgo Island. Known for its unusual design and orange hue, it hasn’t always been lit at night, though lights have sometimes been installed by residents.
The lights put up in December were the result of a partnership between La Conner and Skagit County, who shared the cost of about $10,000.
Originally feeling daunted by a potential six-figure price tag, La Conner was encouraged when public-works director Brian Lease discovered a previously unknown option: less expensive, magnetized lights that could be fixed to the bridge individually.
Hayes said Lease was instrumental in shepherding the project.
In a community largely dependent on tourism, the newly lit — and now even more appealing — bridge could provide a boost once the impact of COVID-19 has lessened, Hayes said.
“From an economic development standpoint, it’s one of the county’s most underutilized assets. Post-COVID, I hope we’ll reap a strong benefit from people who want to be in the community, who want to take advantage of the boardwalk,” Hayes said.
Port of Skagit executive director Patsy Martin, a strong supporter of the project, said she’s thrilled to see the lights installed. Martin said while she’s a fan of the bridge’s colorful look during the day having it lit at night adds another dimension.
“It’s beautiful, it really is,” she said.
Martin said, “We see with our visitors to the (Port of Skagit) marina, a lot of the reason they like to come is to visit the lovely town of La Conner. Having lights on the bridge is another wonderful attribute for the town that people will come to see … Once we get on other side of COVID people will be back and the lighting of the bridge will be another piece to help.”