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Tourists lured by Redding bridge

REDDING -- Anglers boating on the Sacramento River glide beneath Santiago Calatrava's futuristic Sundial Bridge in Redding. Kids peer over its white railing as parents talk about salmon spawning in the graveled shallows. At full moon, visitors crowd onto the span to view the lunar reflection in the swirling current.

The famed Spanish architect's glass-and-steel marvel has captivated thousands since it opened in July 2004, civic leaders say.

"People are on the bridge all the time, in the worst heat and in the middle of winter," said Bob Warren, the city's tourism officer.

That's just what the city had in mind.

"The Sundial Bridge has put Redding on the map," Warren said of the $23 million project, funded mainly by the McConnell Foundation, a Redding-based philanthropic organization.

During the last of summer's heat, Dirk and Ulja Schmidt of Dusseldorf, Germany, strolled across the pedestrian span with its signature 217-foot slanting "sundial" pylon. They explored the bridge's architectural intricacies, then wandered through the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens.

"We're loving it," she said of the couple's bridge visit and first foray into far Northern California.

Warren was not surprised to hear that foreign sojourners had found their way to Redding. The city makes its tourism pitch in countries, like Germany, whose residents are often international travelers.

The bridge also provides a community gathering spot and a midtown connector to the Sacramento River Trail.

The 700-foot-long translucent glass-and-granite span links the Turtle Bay Exploration Park museum complex on one side of the river and its vast arboretum and gardens on the other. The throngs flocking to the bridge have spilled over to Turtle Bay, boosting attendance by 42 percent in the fiscal year that just ended, according to marketing and communications director Virginia Germann.