Iconic Jay Cooke Swinging Bridge Open for Visitors
Posted at: 11/01/2013 5:23 PM
| Updated at: 11/01/2013 6:13 PM
By: Alan Hoglund
Sixteen months after flooding destroyed Jay Cooke State Park's Swinging Bridge, it's open to visitors. It's the fifth version of the bridge which has spanned the St. Louis River for about 90 years.
A swelled river in June of 2012 left much of the bridge a mangled mess. Park Manager Gary Hoeft said "we came in the morning and there was a kind of tear jerking sight."
But a bridge ribbon cutting Friday morning marks a new beginning.
A group of kids were the first to cross because, according to the DNR, they may have the chance to bring their kids across the bridge someday.
Hoeft told a crowd of dozens in a news conference “we're just terribly excited to have this reopen to the public."
At more than 200 feet long, the span recreates the appeal of the bridge’s past, according to the Minnesota DNR. It features cedar log handrails and stonework on support pillars matching that of 1934.
"To match some of their old work was difficult," John Talarico said. He had planned to retire from his masonry job at Stretar Masonry before learning his company was doing the bridge repair work.
He told Eyewitness News he put it off so he could take part in the project. "I thought ‘boy I'd really like to be part of that,’ and especially since Stretar had the job," Talarico said.
The 61-year-old said seeing the bridge finished puts a lump in his throat.
"I think the span makes our work look even better," he said.
The bridge does bounce, but not nearly as much as it did when the first version was built in the 1920s.
DNR Interpretive Naturalist Kris Hiller said, then, visitors couldn’t run or jump on the bridge, and a maximum of five people could be on the bridge at one time.
"A sign attached to that bridge warned our visitors," Hiller said in the news conference.
The DNR said flooding has damaged the bridge more than once. An informational pamphlet from the park says a flooding tore up the structure in 1939 and 1950.
So will the fifth bridge be the last?
We asked Talarico, and he laughed. “You expect me to answer that? You’ve got to ask God that one. I'd say 'not even God could destroy this,' that doesn't work!”