The Whilamut Passage Bridge is a prominent feature in the Eugene-Springfield landscape, spanning Alton Baker Park and the Whilamut Natural Area. To appeal to the many passersby, whether in cars, on bikes or on foot, the bridge program installed a variety of design enhancements around the bridge, all of which pay tribute to the people who've shaped the area's history.
Located on the median between the two bridge spans, Lillian Pitt's sleek, 42-foot stainless steel sculpture "River" depicts a river and a canoe flanked by camas flowers and cattails. It is emblazoned with the names of the nine tribes that make up the Kalapuya, who made their home by the Willamette River before the arrival of Europeans.
At the approach to each span are two unique versions of camas baskets, also sculpted from steel and more than 20 feet high. They are the work of Devin Laurence Field and rhiza A+D, creators of "Blue Camas Basket" and "Camas Basket," respectively. Such baskets were crucial tools for members of the Kalapuya tribe, who gathered camas bulbs for food as they paddled the river by canoe.
These larger design enhancements complement pieces below the bridges. "Transportation Crossover" by Betsy Wolfston depicts several traditional Kalapuya canoes being paddled by tribal members through rushing water. It is incised on the wall of the north embankment where I-5 crosses the Canoe Canal. "Blue Camas Tiles" by Litus LLC, installed under I-5 along the Canoe Canal path, represents the lifecycle of the blue camas.
A volunteer citizen group - the Design Enhancement Steering Committee - supported the work of artist design teams every step of the way by developing design criteria and providing input based in part on public comments about the proposed concepts. The bridge program is grateful for their many hours of dedication and honored to foster the work of the Oregon artists and the fabricators and craft workers helping them build and assemble these cultural tributes.