MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The St. Croix River has become a frozen playground for those who love winter and the outdoors.

“It seems to, over the last ten years, bring more and more people out here,” Dave Farr, of Bayport, said.

Three times a week, Farr runs his dogs up and down the St Croix River, but his exercise route ends south of the new St. Croix bridge.

“The ice up there is a little sketchy, broken up.  You definitely don’t want to cross there,” Farr said.

Bridge construction will continue through the winter as tug boats break up the ice to bring in heavy machinery. This year, MnDOT will also use aerators near the build site to help make that ice breaking process easier.

But there’s concern the aerating could weaken the ice up to a mile south of the bridge.

“It’s a big deal.  We want people to enjoy being out on the ice but yet we also want them to recognize the dangers of the ice,” DNR Conservation Officer Scott Arntzen said.

Thin ice warning signs are posted at the major entrances to the river, but not everyone listens to the warnings.

The access near Bayport is also a major route for a shortcut across the river and many ice anglers drop a line nearby.

“With this big of an area being aerated, the signs, they’re going to put them down further just for safety reasons,” Arntzen said.

“I talked to someone. There was 15 inches four days ago about 50 yards from shore,” Roger Parentau, of Hudson, said. “I see the traffic and I’m comfortable with it.”

Cold weather brings with it an invitation to venture on the ice but also the risk just a short distance upriver.

The DNR says so far this year, no one has gone through the ice on the St. Croix. If a snowmobiler is caught skipping open water near the bridge, they could face a $200 ticket.

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