A nuptial first for High Bridge

Published 7:46 am Thursday, June 29, 2017

Few couples can say they’ve exchanged vows 125 feet off the ground.

Ervin and Lori Lambert Beekman, however, held their wedding at High Bridge Trail State Park’s High Bridge on Saturday afternoon, being the first couple in the park’s five-year history to be married on the bridge.

High Bridge, which stands 125 feet above the Appomattox River — the longest pedestrian bridge in Virginia at 2,422 feet long — had first been part of the South Side Railroad that passed through Lynchburg into Farmville in the 1850s.

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Over the following century, the railroad changed hands, eventually becoming part of the Norfolk Southern Railway system in the early 1980s. Mounting costs to maintain the bridge led to the bridge becoming downgraded then abandoned.

The bridge was later revamped into a state park, with the 31 miles of former railroad bed converted to a trail where participants can hike, ride bikes, ride horses and of course, traverse the bridge.

But before the Beekmans crossed the bridge to exchange vows, or even crossed the bridge for their first date, they first crossed the floor of a cafeteria.

Lori and Ervin first met in high school, where they sat at the same table at lunch. They said they dated different people in high school and eventually reconnected over the years.

Their first date, Ervin said, took place on the bridge, where they walked to the overlook near the center of the bridge, then walked back.

Ervin said the bridge became a meaningful part of their relationship. It seemed like a natural choice for them to walk a physical and metaphorical bridge to their life together.

“I liked the symbolism of walking onto a bridge, and leaving as one,” Ervin said. “We couldn’t have asked for a more lovely day. It’s a very special day to us.”

The small wedding saw about 20 participants, and Farmville United Methodist Church Lead Pastor Michael Kendall officiated the ceremony.

The couple and guests celebrated their reception at Charleys Waterfront Cafe in downtown Farmville.

Park Manager Daniel Jordan said Lori and Ervin approached him about the idea of the wedding, and they began making plans in February.

As a result of their arrangements, the park created a wedding packet, where hosting a small wedding and reserving the bridge costs $300.

Jordan said the location offers a unique and creative alternative to more traditional wedding venues.

“It’s definitely a prime destination for small weddings,” Jordan said. “To be married 125 feet over the Appomattox River is a neat opportunity.”

To learn more about High Bridge Trail State Park, visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/high-bridge-trail or call (434) 315-0457.