Kevin Shepherd was determined to be among the first to cross the new Lansdowne Bridge.
Following the pomp, ceremony and politicians' speeches at yesterday's opening, the 88-year-old Eastgrove resident lined up at the ribbon cutting.
"My grandfather (James Shepherd) worked on the first bridge," he proudly told The Post.
Mr Shepherd's father, Frank, also worked at nearby Lansdowne Estate where the young Kevin lived until he was four.
Just ahead of him, 10-year-old Simon Walshe put on his sprinting legs to be the very first across the new $18.6 million structure. Later, local triathlete Andrew Oberg did fleet-footed laps.
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After many years of discussion, several designs and two years' construction, the new concrete Lansdowne Bridge was finally opened before some 200 community members. It replaces the former 1902 de Burgh truss bridge. Mayor Bob Kirk quipped that a former RTA worker told him the new structure was being talked about 30 years ago.
"So have patience," he said.
It also carries a second name - the Harold E (Boodge) Freeman bridge - named after the late Goulburn man and Wiradjuri elder who devoted much of his life to reconciliation. Members of the Freeman family, including daughter Delise who delivered a speech, were on hand for the ceremony.
So too were federal MP Angus Taylor and Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman. The state government chipped in $15.4m and the federal government $3.25m towards the work, while Goulburn Mulwaree Council paid $500,000 to upgrade the road approaches.
Mr Freeman's grandson and Goulburn Mulwaree councillor Alf Walker performed an Acknowledgment of Country and a smoking ceremony.
"It's an absolute honour and privilege for our family because the bridge has very strong significance being named after our father and grandfather. He was an absolute leader in this community," Delise Freeman said.
She told how her father, who died in 2002, was an ambassador for the advancement of Aboriginal people and a founding member and chair of the Pejar Local Aboriginal Land Council.
He was also a Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust board member, a recognised Wiradjuri elder, a member of the Council of Wiradjuri Elders and a member of the Council for Reconciliation. Harold was also a talented muisician, could play almost every instrument and was a "jack of all trades."
Concerns over name
But disquiet remains over the naming process.
Roads and Maritime Service southern region director Sam Knight said Harold E Freeman's name was selected following consultation with the Heritage Council and the Pejar Local Aboriginal Land Council.
Delise Freeman is the chair of the Pejar Aboriginal Land Council.
The consultation did not involve Goulburn Mulwaree Council, which Ms Knight pointed out in her speech. Asked whether this was usual in the naming of bridges, she declined to comment.
Goulburn resident Jennie Gordon, who has Ngunnawal heritage and represented her people at the Uluru Statement from the Heart, said it had been "very well researched" that Goulburn was not Wiradjuri country. Instead it was located around the Lachlan River to Goulburn's west.
"Norman Tindle did a study of the Aboriginal nations which showed Goulburn on the border of where the Ngunnawal and Gandangara lived," she said.
Ms Gordon said she photographed interpretative signs placed by RMS at the bridge just weeks ago which acknowledged this fact but they had since been changed to include the Wiradjuri people.
"But they didn't add all the other Aboriginal language groups that used to visit Goulburn," she said.
"...There are over 1000 people in Goulburn that identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and the Pejar Local Aboriginal Land Council represents a minimal group of these."
The interprative signs about the area's Aboriginal and European history have been mounted on signs using the bridge's original timber around the bridge.
Sources have told The Post that main signage which appeared around the bridge several weeks ago initally showed Harold E 'Boodge' Freeman as the main name, with Lansdowne as a secondary title. This has since been reversed.
But for the Freeman family, it was a proud day. Another daughter, Auntie Margaret Williams said she was sad and overwhelmed" all at once.
"He (Harold) was a happy go lucky fellow who loved music and loved children," she said.
Controversy aside, the day was one of celebration.
"How good is the new Lansdowne Bridge?" Mr Taylor asked.
He "declared an interest" as a Mountain Ash Road resident and was looking forward to driving and riding his bike over it rather than coming the long way around.
"We all loved the old bridge but the reality was we needed one that worked for us," Mr Taylor said.
Mrs Tuckerman said the project might have taken three years but the result was a solid structure.
Numerous community members swept aside the construction delays to welcome the opening.
"I think it's fantastic. It will open up the whole area," Boxers Creek resident Jacki Waugh said.
Windellama man Phil Zapirain stood watching proceedings underneath the bridge with his kelpie, Zeze.
"The old bridge was a bit rickety but this is a good one. I can't wait to drive over it," he said.
The opening put to an end a bypass via Forbes Street which has been in place for almost three years.
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