Demo begins on commemorative Golden Gate walkway

January 18, 2012 3:06:10 PM PST
Demolition of a commemorative walkway at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge started Wednesday, angering some who thought the bricks they bought and inscribed with the names of loved ones would be permanent.

Workers hidden by a construction fence began tearing up the path of 7,500 bricks as part of a visitor center renovation southeast of the bridge on the San Francisco side of the span. The demolition was necessary because the steepness of the walkway did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, bridge officials said.

"We're not just ripping out the bricks for the sake of ripping out bricks. The current walkway is too steep," bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The newspaper reports individuals paid between $32 and $75 for the custom bricks installed to celebrate the bridge's 50th anniversary in 1987, three years before the disabilities act became law. The renovation could not go forward without bringing the site in compliance with the act, Currie said.

Tom Libby of San Francisco bought a brick to honor his partner, Cliff Ochampaugh, who died of AIDS the same year the walkway was built. Libby called the demolition "callous."

To mollify those upset over the walkway's destruction, the bridge district has planned three ways to preserve its memory.

The new visitor center is slated to include an outdoor panel engraved with all 7,500 inscriptions from the bricks. Digital photos of each brick will be made available, and a Google Earth app that shows the original walkway is in the works.