Photo Contest Winner: Ryan Harshfield

Ryan Harshfield was one of the winners in our summer Penn State Reads photo contest. Here is Ryan’s winning photo and accompanying description: 

St. Johns Bridge

This is the St. Johns Bridge in the historic neighborhood of St. Johns, Portland, Oregon. It’s where I call home. This bridge is just about 400 feet tall and more than 2,000 feet long. It joins East Portland and West Portland, crossing the Willamette River. With construction starting in 1929, the completion of this magnificent structure came in 1931 during the Great Depression.

When crossing the bridge, you can spot the area’s mountains, such as Mt. Hood or the infamous Mount St. Helens. Look south and you can see beautiful downtown Portland. Under the bridge is Cathedral Park, which plays host to countless festivals, ceremonies, recreation, and dog walking. On Saturdays, there’s a farmers’ market and live music. On the west side of the bridge is Forest Park, one of the nation’s largest parks, perfect for hiking or bird watching. The bridge acts as a conduit, bringing people and activities together.

St. Johns is a neighborhood proud of its hardworking people and their ingenuity, perseverance, and sense of community. Times have not been easy for this little town, though; it has battled poverty, unemployment, drug use, and mental health issues. There can also be a feeling of isolation or solitude when living on the peninsula formed by the confluence of the Willamette River and the Columbia River.

Twice a day, I cross this bridge to go to work and much like everyone else who uses it, we have come to adore it. That’s not always the case, though; there are some who don’t make it across. Whether it is due to an accident or a decision one has made, this serves as a reminder of the world we live in and the struggles that daily life presents us. I get a sense of history and sorrow when walking across the bridge — looking way down as traffic whizzes by me, or when gazing up at the Gothic towers as wind blows through my hair. I use this bridge for more than a physical crossing; I look at it as a pillar of the community, one that’s heavily celebrated and appreciated, not just in St. Johns, but also in all of Portland.