Lossiemouth locals hopped, skipped and jumped over the new East Beach bridge as it opened after a three-year wait.
The community has finally been reconnected with the golden sands after the old bridge closed due to safety concerns in 2019.
Hundreds gathered on the esplanade as representatives from Lossiemouth Community Development Trust (LCDT), Moray Council and the Scottish Government took their first steps across the bridge.
It was an emotional day, both for those who have been involved in the difficult process of building the new bridge during a pandemic and for those who are sad to see the end of the era of the old bridge.
‘I’m hoping one day they’ll love the new bridge’
Rab Forbes is chairman of LCDT’s bridge committee and has been at the forefront of the project since before it was announced the old bridge was to be put out of use.
Standing on the esplanade, sporting a tie with the old bridge on it and preparing to take his first journey across the new one, he said: “It’s been a long slog.
“I very naively hope that perhaps when people come to the bridge they’ll bring their troubles and leave them here where I’m standing and go over to the beach.
“Whether you walk around for five minutes or a few hours, perhaps your troubles won’t be as big when you come back.”
He added: “This town loved the old bridge, and I’m hoping one day they’ll love the new bridge as much.”
Benefitting the local community
It is estimated that the bridge being out of action has cost the Lossiemouth economy around £1.5 million per year.
With the new bridge in place for the warmer months, cabinet secretary for rural affairs and islands Mairi Gougeon said she expects the community to benefit greatly from the new bridge.
“I think it will have a big impact on the local community and the local economy,” she said.
“That’s one thing that was clear when the bridge closed, local businesses felt the impact there, tourism was affected, and I think the biggest impact was on the local community itself.
“They’ve been cut off from this space and I think that’s where it’s brilliant that they get access to the beach again.”
Mental health benefits
Alan McDonald, chairman of LCDT remembered the day £1.8million Scottish Government funding for the bridge had been granted as “memorable”.
He wasn’t surprised to see so many people making their way across the bridge in the first hour of it being open to the public.
“This will bring economic and social benefits without a doubt,” he said.
“You look at people’s health issues, general health, mental health, it’s lovely to get out into the fresh air and walk along a beautiful beach.”
Beaver Bridges, who constructed the new bridge, will be returning to the area in the next week to deconstruct and recycle the old bridge.