Rockhounds searching for semi-precious agates have been causing safety issues at the site of recent work on the new Stillwater bridge. A new overpass on Wisconsin Highway 35 has become such a hotspot that officials have asked the local sheriff to enforce no trespassing signs, according to the Star Tribune:
Agate hunters could get run over by earth-moving machines if they continue trespassing on a St. Croix River bridge construction zone, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation warned Friday.
Frustrated by growing numbers of rockhounds digging in overturned soil where a Hwy. 64 extension is being built in St. Croix County, Wis., the road contractor has asked for help from law enforcement to keep people away.
“They’re not driving around golf carts,” WisDOT spokeswoman Chris Ouellette said of workers operating bulldozers, dump trucks and other large vehicles. “We’re just really concerned about the safety of people. They need to stay out of there. They’re on our property in this work zone, doing a very dangerous thing.”
In a Facebook post, the St. Croix Crossing project stressed the importance of staying out of the way:
Unfortunately, we have recently experienced some trespassing on the project site, specifically near Wisconsin approach work. This puts drivers, workers, and the trespassers themselves at a tremendous risk of safety hazards. Please stay out of and away from the areas highlighted in red in the included picture. Trespassing violations onto the project site are enforceable by law.
Please note that the highlighted area in this picture does not display construction work in its entirety. Grading work in Wisconsin is taking place all the way to County Rd. E and beyond. Please respect the ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted throughout the entire work zone area.
In the Star Tribune, president of the St. Croix Rockhounds club David Rusterholz said excavations in the St. Croix Valley often attract rock hunters looking for Lake Superior agate, which was deposited by glaciers, but the club discourages trespassing.
Agates are often used to make jewelry or collected for their intricate patterns. Lake Superior Agate is the official state gemstone of Minnesota.