West Virginia Town Unhappy with Pink Bridge

An out-of towner has painted a bridge pink in Huntington, W.Va., to raise awareness about breast cancer. The mayor has said it's fine with him, but residents, including the city council, disagree. From West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Kristin Murdock reports.

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A 26-year-old college student in West Virginia is getting more publicity than he bargained for after taking an unusual step to increase breast cancer awareness. Jason Sansom got permission from Huntington, West Virginia's mayor to paint the city-owned bridge pink. While some support Sansom and his work, many neighbors say he's gone too far.

West Virginia's Public Broadcasting's Kristin Murdock reports.

KRISTIN MURDOCK: The 50-foot two-lane bridge runs along Huntington's Ritter Park. It used to be known as the Eighth Street Bridge, but now it's known as the Pink Bridge, and Jason Sansom is the pink painter.

Mr. JASON SANSOM (Bridge Painter): If everybody wanted to paint the unsightly bridges that we have, I think it would be a great cause. I mean, I don't see any harm in painting them as long as you get proper permission, and the city is not out anything. They're not being maintained, as it is, so let's paint them and let's, you know, add a little color to the city.

MURDOCK: Sansom has spent about $200 of his own money to paint the bridge in support of breast cancer awareness. No one close to him has been affected by breast cancer; he just wanted to join the fight against the disease. And Sansom has some volunteers on his side. Amy Clatworthy(ph) showed up in a pink breast cancer awareness hat and t-shirt. She doesn't mind being seen helping him paint.

Ms. AMY CLATWORTHY (Bridge Painter): For a good cause, I have no problem with it. Never done anything like this before, and I think he's trying to do a good thing.

MURDOCK: Has anybody in your family or you been affected by breast cancer?

Ms. CLATWORTHY: No, they haven't, but that doesn't mean that one day, myself or someone I know won't be.

MURDOCK: The once natural stone bridge is now a Pepto Bismol shade, and that's not okay with neighbor Tom Craig. He's lived in the house overlooking the bridge for 20 years.

Mr. TOM CRAIG (Opposes Bridge Painting): I respect the reasons why the bridge is painted pink, but it's not sightly and it's not conducive to the kind of respect we should be showing those bridges. Those bridges are as much a part of the charm of the south side of Huntington as Ritter Park itself is.

MURDOCK: The whole city is arguing over the pink bridge. Huntington's mayor didn't seek counsel of any homeowners in the neighborhood before letting Sansom paint the bridge, and that's not sitting well with Huntington resident Courtney Arnold.

Ms. COURTNEY ARNOLD (Resident): I think it's the mayor's job and it's his responsibility to not only ask the community but consult the historical committee. He needs to consult the park board and get their endorsement. And he also should have, knowing that the community was divided on it and that people were opposed to it, he should have said come up with a compromise, because it is important as a leader to come up with a compromise.

MURDOCK: But it was Huntington Mayor David Felinton's decision.

Mayor DAVID FELINTON (Huntington, West Virginia): You know, going back in time knowing what I know now, I maybe would have tried to seek a little bit of input. But by no means do I regret granting Mr. Sansom the permission to do this.

MURDOCK: For NPR News, I'm Kristin Murdock in Huntington, West Virginia.

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