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Jay Cooke Swinging Bridge Reopens

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(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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CARLTON, Minn. (WCCO) – A historic landmark at a Minnesota State Park is about to reopen to the public after flooding destroyed it.

Park goers will finally be able to walk across the swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park next week.

Rushing water from the St. Louis River tore it apart during flooding in the Duluth area two summers ago.

Park historian Kristine Hiller says the swinging bridge, originally built in 1924, has a long history at the scenic park.

“People visiting it, bouncing around on it, bringing their family and friends here,” Hiller said.

Over the years, it has become more than a link between two sets of trails, but part of an experience for visitors, like brothers Ken and Dan Rentz. They spent of lot of time at the park as kids.

“It seems like a hidden gem up here,” Ken Rentz said. “It’s probably the symbol of the park really.”

After months of waiting, they showed up Saturday hoping it would be open.

“It looks nice. We’re excited to go across it again,” he said.

Park crews are almost ready to take down the barriers after 16 months.

“After you get over the shock of it all, you just have to look at it as an opportunity,” Hiller said. “Where do we go from here?”

Hiller says they decided to go back to an original, rustic design. Architects recreated the bridge using blueprints from 1934.

They restored the damaged stone columns by taking slate from the riverbed, added cedar log hand rails and opened up the area on the riverbank so people have a better view.

“It looks different, but it still has the original essence to it,” Ken Rentz said.

Subtle changes were made to enhance one of the most beautiful places in Minnesota. For regulars like the Rentz brothers, they’re eager to get out there on the bridge and take it all in.

“I’ll be back down here next weekend for sure,” Dan Rentz said.

Kristine Hiller says the swinging bridge will be sturdier than the old one. This is actually the fifth time it has been rebuilt.

The cost was more than $1 million.

Park crews haven’t said what day it will reopen next week.

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