PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- - The late Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Chairman Richard Milanovich saw the lands behind west Sunny Dunes Road in Palm Springs as sacred, and wanted an easier way to share them with the valley.
"He's had this vision for as long as I can remember," says Milanovich's childhood friend Bob Fey, "To get a closer walk to the trail to Tahquitz. From the time we were kids we wanted to get closer."
Now, six months after his death, the late chairman's vision is a reality.
The Richard M. Milanovich Memorial Bridge at Belardo and Sunny Dunes Road is now open.
This bridge, in the works for 20 years, connects the heart of Palm Springs to the Tribe's Tahquitz Canyon Trails, a project close to Milanovich's heart.
Milanovich once said he didn't want this bridge to be a burden on the taxpayer, so he waited for years until he found help to fund the project. That came in the form of 3 million dollars from the Public Lands Highway Fund.
Chairman Jeff Grubbe says, "It not only took him 20 years, it took our councils working together on a government-government relationship with Palm Springs to get this done."
Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet joined Chairman Grubbe in a red convertible to take the first ride across the bridge.
Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit and Representative Brian Nestande also spoke at the dedication.
"It's going to be a long time before we forget," Benoit said, " And putting a name to a beautiful new facility like this is just a part of what we are doing to honor that wonderful man."
Also attending the dedication were Milanovich's wife and children. They helped unveil a plaque in his honor in front of a crowd of more than 100 people.
"People really admired him in this city, and they still do, and I think he'd be really humbled by that. He just would've been speechless," daughter Trista Milanovich said, reflecting on the attendance from people in the community.
The bridge is used as an alternate route to extend Belardo Road, one block west of Palm Canyon Drive.