Oak Park Heights to celebrate bridge with ice cream social

Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber and St. Joseph, Wis., town board chair Tom Spaniol pose on the approach to the new St. Croix Crossing bridge July 13, after announcing a joint ice cream social to follow the Aug. 2 ribbon cutting for the bridge. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

The city of Oak Park Heights and the town of St. Joseph, Wis., will host a joint ice cream social immediately after the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new St. Croix Crossing bridge Aug. 2.

Following the 10 a.m. ceremony, the public is invited to enjoy free ice cream in Oak Park Crossing Park, within sight of the new bridge, while supplies last.

The park is at 15055 60th St. N. in Oak Park Heights, next to Phil’s Tara Hideaway. There will be public parking on the former Fury Motors lot at the northwest corner of Osgood Avenue and Highway 36, as well as at Stillwater Junior High. Shuttles will carry the public to and from the ceremony and ice cream social.

“It’s been a long process,” Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber said of the bridge construction. “There’s been a lot of disruption over the last few years, and it’s nice to see the dirt settle down. It’ll be even nicer to see the barriers come down.”

“We’re very excited in St. Joseph, because of easier access for residents of western Wisconsin who work in Minnesota,” said Tom Spaniol, chair of the St. Joseph Town Board. “We’re also very excited for the loop trail.”

While many look forward to the opening of the new bridge, McComber also remembers the project’s impact on her city.

“Oak Park Heights actually lost a lot of homes,” she said. “Our landscape has changed because of this bridge.”

Spaniol expects the bridge to have an impact on St. Joseph, too.

“It will bring significant change,” he said. “We’ve been preparing the last few years, examining the potential change, rewriting our comprehensive plan, creating an economic impact study, creating our first-ever bike and pedestrian plan.”

Spaniol noted how different the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the river look — one highly developed, the other still rural.

“It’s like night and day,” he said.

That, too, will change as development comes to the Wisconsin side, he said, “but not overnight.” Spaniol isn’t sure the landscape in St. Joseph will change as much, or at least as quickly, as some expect.

Both McComber and Spaniol agreed one positive result of the bridge was the formation of a new connection between the city and town in more ways than one.

“We established a new relationship because of this, which is a good thing,” Spaniol said.

“He’s my new best friend,” McComber joked.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]