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Jay Cooke almost a century old

Guests line up for the cake-cutting welcome ceremony at Jay Cooke State Park on Saturday, June 13, at an open house celebrating the park’s 100th anniversary. Joey Gotchnik/Pine Journal

What happened in 1915? Babe Ruth hit his first home run, David Rockefeller was born with business in his bones, World War I raged on, and Jay Cooke State Park was born — with its flowing rivers, Swinging Bridge, campgrounds, abundance of trails and unique rock formations.

The actual “birthday” of the park is Oct. 8, 1915, but the Jay Cooke staff has a few pre-party celebrations set up. The first was June 13 to observe National Get Outdoors Day.

The day featured stations of different activities that explored plants, animals, invasive species, water quality and various activities the park has to offer.

Matt Winbigler of Cloquet was enjoying the day with his family, and was excited about the loop of trails across the swinging bridge that is now open to mountain biking and “fat biking,” he said excitingly, “but the cake is where the real story lies.”

At the official welcome and cake cutting that afternoon, guests gathered in front of the River Inn, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and listened to Erika Rivers, park director, and Lisa Angelos, park manager, talk about the history of Jay Cooke State Park — teaching participants about the park’s beginning and how it needs to be preserved for future generations.

“It’s all about caring for what you have, and enjoying it in a way that is sensitive to the environment that we are in, so that people we don’t even dream of yet can enjoy it in the future,” Angelos said.

And care for it they do. Jay Cooke-themed cakes from Johnson Bakery lined the outside of the River Inn for all to indulge. And, in the name of preservation, all the forks, plates, and cups were compostable.

Afterward, participants watched the Ojibwe Culture Puppet Show inside the River Inn, enjoyed face painting, took part in some river trivia, or just enjoyed the beauty of the park.

Ty Gangelhoff, assistant park manager, was delighted by the “overall celebration of the resources and various activities Jay Cooke has to offer, highlighting the different natural, cultural, and historical aspects found in the park.”

After the 2012 flood damage and the fifth rebuilding of the Swinging Bridge, Angelos is feeling “very optimistic” about the future of the park.

The next celebration for the 100th year is on July 31 — Once in a Blue Moon Day. On this day you are allowed to hike into an off-limits section of the park, observing endangered trees and aquatic species trying to recover.

For any questions, contact the park at (218) 384-4610 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. or email at jaycooke.statepark@state.mn.us.

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