Ten years ago, when the new John Ringling Causeway Bridge was built, it stirred up the community.
Despite the controversy surrounding the new structure, the bridge became an iconic part of the Sarasota skyline. In addition to serving as a physical connection between Sarasota and Bird Key, the bridge became a way to connect the people in the community.
Suzanne Atwell, former Sarasota mayor and current city commissioner, says since its completion, she’s seen its impact on the community grow.
“It really is the great connector,” she says. “Old and new friends meet there. It’s become an outdoor community center for people of all walks of life.”
Katie Klauber Moulton: Stress reliever
For Katie Klauber Moulton, there is no better therapist than the John Ringling Causeway Bridge. When she and her family were dealing with the stress surrounding the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, she would lace up her favorite running shoes and hit the popular exercise destination to clear her mind. She says her regular walks have become an important part of her life.
“It provides a great escape,” she says. “When you’re on top of the bridge, you’re struck by the beauty of our surroundings. There are endless views in all directions.”
Those who know Moulton know that walking the bridge is jpart of her routine. She typically walks the bridge four times a week by herself, mid-day, but occasionally her husband, Michael, or a few friends will join her, and when she has guests in from out of town, they often join her, too.
Two years ago, Moulton underwent a surgery that left her unable to walk the bridge for several months, but she set a date that she’d be back to her normal routine. When the day arrived, dozens of her friends and family members showed up on the bridge to show their support with banners, balloons and noisemakers as she made her first walk back over the bridge.
She says that just as the bridge was an important part of her life, it played an equally significant role in her recovery.
“The bridge gives me an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and continue my lifelong commitment to health and wellness,” she says. “I love the diversity of all the people using the bridge, and it’s interesting to think that many of them are using it for the same reason as you. I’m constantly encouraged by that.”
Mike Shaughnessy: My mini family
Mike Shaughnessy’s free weekly boot camp under the John Ringling Causeway Bridge has conditioned him to do more than just push-ups and jumping jacks. It’s also trained him to answer to his group-given nickname: “Squid” — a reference to his Navy career. One day, while in the waiting room at his doctor’s office, a woman from the boot camp recognized him and leaned over.
“Squid?” she asked, referring to him by the only name she knew. Shaughnessy looked up and realized he didn’t know the woman’s real name, either, and they both shared a laugh.
The group nicknames, which are given to boot campers as a rite of passage, represent the level of camaraderie the attendees share. Their weekly workouts do more than get them in shape; Shaughnessy says he’s seen great friendships form throughout the years.
The weekly meet-up provides allows him to enjoy Sarasota’s beauty and make friends at the same time.
“The bridge is the perfect location for this, and it’s such a pretty area and a nice hub of activity,” he says.
Geoffrey Michel: Everyday Experience
As co-owner of The Met on St. Armands Circle, Geoffrey Michel knows the importance of smooth traffic flow. Ten years ago, when the John Ringling Causeway Bridge was built, Michel says he began to see a much smoother flow of traffic, which helped him and fellow merchants continue to prosper.
In addition to logistical benefits, Michel says he was also struck by the social impact the new bridge had on Sarasota.
“I saw a lot more of my clients moving from Longboat Key to downtown Sarasota,” he says. “I saw a sort of lifestyle change, and the bridge is now part of their everyday experience. I recognize a lot of my clients on the bridge when I’m driving to work.”
Michel is also a marathon runner, and he uses the bridge six days a week to help with his training; he will also occasionally join his wife, Brenda, and children on walks across the bridge. He says its beautiful setting allows the family to tune everything else out and focus on one another.
“The new bridge has really improved the community experience here,” he says. “It transformed something that was a necessity — something to get people from point A to point B — into something that enhances our community.”