Due to the many historic, cultural, and environmental issues along the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, the new St. Croix Crossing has been delayed time and again. Stillwater will finally see the new bridge come to fruition with a grand opening early this month. The ribbon cutting for the Crossing, which will replace the historic Stillwater lift bridge and connect Oak Park Heights, Minnesota to St. Joseph, Wisconsin, is scheduled for August 2nd.With through traffic to Wisconsin being rerouted, Stillwater can finally close the downtown lift bridge to vehicle traffic for good. This will let Stillwater address a setback has precluded many tourists, as well as locals, from visiting its charming downtown for quite some time: a lack of parking and traffic as a priority over pedestrians.
Without the need for a traffic lane to turn onto the lift bridge, more parking on Main Street will be added, and a new parking ramp is in the works as well. Curb extensions at all intersections and improved timing of crosswalk lights will make Stillwater much more easily explorable by foot, and the former approach to the old lift bridge from Chestnut Street to Main Street will be transformed into a pedestrian mall. Two boutique hotels will be built on Main Street to cover the growing need to accommodate guests who wish to spend as much time as they can in Stillwater’s beautiful historic downtown.
Christie Rosckes, director of marketing at Discover Stillwater, expects visitors will be thrilled once the historic lift bridge is closed to vehicle traffic. “Now people can walk or ride their bikes across the St. Croix River to see the view of Stillwater from the Wisconsin side,” said Christie. “It’s one of the best views of the birthplace of Minnesota!”
The town will become a hub for long and short bike trips with the addition of a five mile loop trail connecting Stillwater’s Brown’s Creek State Trail to the Gateway State Trail from St. Paul. Stillwater will also be friendlier to cyclists with new designated bike trails separate from pedestrian walkways.
Downtown business owners will also be happy when the historic lift bridge is closed to traffic, making their guests’ time in Stillwater a far more peaceful experience. Terry Halverson, owner of My Sister’s Cottage, says, “I’m excited to see the return of Stillwater residents to their own downtown!” The owners of Downtown Divas, Mai Little Cakes, and Spice & Tea Co. are planning a group grand reopening to coincide with the bridge opening. “It’s definitely a time to celebrate!” said Sue DelCastillo of Downtown Divas.
Stillwater’s commercial development director Bill Turnblad sums it up nicely: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to dramatically change the community’s downtown experience.” With the implementation of its big plans already in effect, historic Stillwater is set to remain as one of Minnesota’s premier tourist destinations for years to come.
Visit discoverstillwater.com for more information about the town!
By Dianne Swanson