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City floats misdemeanor for jumping off Stillwater Lift Bridge, hoping to end kids' so-called summer 'rite of passage'

With heavy boat traffic and unpredictable river levels, city officials proposed ticketing with a maximum $300 fine for jumping from the bridge into the St. Croix.

STILLWATER, Minn. — If you live in or near Stillwater, you know jumping off the historic lift bridge into the St. Croix is a...thing.

And like it or not, that's been the truth for decades. But now, the city says it's time to put that thing to bed.

"Growing up in town, in Stillwater, that was just kind of what kids did," said Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowsi.

Walking onto the bridge in the summer months and plunging down, yes, is what kids did. Kozlowski used to be one of those kids, who says he jumped off the birdge into the St. Croix many times.

"My whole life, I assumed it was illegal," Kozlowksi said. "I always thought you weren't allowed to jump off the bridge. Didn't stop people from doing it — it's always been a rite of passage in Stillwater to a degree."

But while it wasn't encouraged, it also wasn't against the law — which was also news to law enforcement.

"I guess I assumed it was illegal," said Stillwater Police Chief Brian Mueller. "I'm new here for a year and a half, and after we did some digging and research, we realized there isn't anything on books here. So really, we are less concerned about the enforcement of the ordinance, but really discourage individuals from jumping off this bridge."

With heavy boat traffic and rising and falling river levels, not to mention the realization that jumping from the bridge wasn't actually illegal, the city made moves Monday to get the law on the books: No more jumping off the bridge or you'll be handed a misdemeanor, complete with a ticket and a maximum fine of $300.

"We got a complaint from the Department of Transportation — bridge tenders — they were just really fearful for some of the people they saw jumping off the bridge," Mueller said.

This summer, the mayor noticed too, deciding it was time to cut off this rite of passage.

"As romantic a notion as it is, I was down with my kids a couple weeks ago and the kids were jumping off the bridge and I thought, 'Oh, that's kind of cute.' Then I kind of realized they weren't paying attention to anything. There was loads of boat traffic. It just looked dicey," Kozlowski said.

The city council met Monday evening for the first read through of the new ordinance, which the mayor thinks will pass. The council will vote "yay" or "nay" on it the first week of September.

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