COOS BAY — A local landmark is looking a little fresher.
A small group of volunteers from North Point Real Estate toted cans of red paint through Mingus Park On Oct. 2 and got to work on the Choshi Bridge, named for Coos Bay's sister city in Japan.
For volunteer Tom Leahy, the hope is that the painting project will refresh more than just the bridge.
"Hopefully it'll reinvigorate our sister city organization," Leahy said. "It's all kind of evaporated."
That organization established the sister city relationship between Coos Bay and Choshi on Feb. 10, 1983, according to The World's archives.
Leahy remembers a few decades ago, when the relationship between Coos Bay and Choshi, a fishing city and center of soy sauce production in Japan's Chiba province, was stronger. In 1993, Leahy joined a group of Coos Bay residents on an exchange tour of the city.
"It was always exciting," Leahy said.
That year, the group of about 15 or 20 Oregonians brought wine from area wineries and other local products to share. On other occasions, students swapped places in the two cities for educational exchanges.
Since then, though, the exchanges have all but stopped, and the relationship has been fairly sparse, according to The World's archives: In 2016, a Coos Bay business leader made a stop in the city as part of an Oregon delegation to Japan. In 2015, Choshi rededicated its monument to Steve Prefontaine. In 2011, Coos Bay residents donated several thousand dollars to relief efforts in Choshi following the disastrous earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Northern Japan that year.
The bridge was dedicated at a ceremony with a Choshi delegation in 1990, according to the archives. That was two years after the first attempt at a dedication, when Choshi's representatives arrived at the planned ceremony in 1988 to find the bridge was not yet finished.
It fell into disrepair in the early 2000's, leading the city to close and replace it for safety reasons. In 2005, the city approved a plan to rebuild the bridge, which cost just under $150,000 at the time.
Now, Leahy hopes the bridge repainting will spark a resurgence in the relationship between the two sister cities — and improve a local landmark.
"When people come to town, they're not just looking at a house. They're looking at the community," Leahy said. "This is part of our history."