It is now a petty misdemeanor to jump from the Stillwater Lift Bridge into the St. Croix River. Last month, the city council approved an ordinance prohibiting any such tomfoolery or shenanigans from occurring on the historic structure.
The rule was the result of a request from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge and operates its lift span for boat traffic. While the state agency only asked the city to pass an ordinance prohibiting jumping from the bridge, the city attorney suggested expanding it climbing on or jumping off any bridge over a waterway in the entire city.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to climb on or jump or dive off or from any bridge, overpass, roadway, or other structure over or into any channel or narrow passageway of any public water within the City,” the ordinance reads.
After significant media attention, the council passed the prohibition unanimously, citing safety concerns. Mayor Ted Kozlowski said he had recently watched young people jumping off the lift span, with numerous nearby boats trying to navigate windy conditions.
“The one thing I’ve noticed, especially during the pandemic, is that everybody who didn’t have a boat on the river, bought one,” Kozlowski said after the vote. “And there’s never been more rookies on the river, and more near misses with boaters, and that puts a serious frame on it.”
He also said everyone he had talked to thought the activity was already illegal.
Some people in the community pointed out that the river is a public waterway and the city can’t regulate it, but city attorney Kori Land said that’s not what the council was doing.
“I know that there’s been a lot of chatter today that we can’t regulate the river,” Land said. “We’re not, we’re regulating the structure over it.”
In fact, Land pointed out the city only has jurisdiction over the half of the bridge on the Minnesota side of the river. The prohibition does not cover the other side, yet. Council member Mike Pohlena said the Minnesota Department of Transportation was contacting St. Croix County about a possible prohibition on the Wisconsin side.
The penalty for jumping off the bridge will be a fine up to $300. The ordinance contains exceptions for authorized workers, public safety personnel in the act of assisting in an emergency situation, or other government activities.