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Iconic Footbridge At Paterson Great Falls Forced To Close Due To Safety Concerns

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- There is bad news for those who plan to visit Paterson Great Falls. The iconic footbridge is now closed.

CBS2's Nick Caloway went Tuesday to see what's being done to get it back open again.

It's the crown jewel of New Jersey's third-largest city.

"It's breathtaking," visitor Michelle Gomes said.

Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park attracts more than 300,000 people a year, visitors from near and far, old and young.

"It just looks cool," seventh grader Gavin Chin said.

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And the best view of the falls is from the iconic footbridge. But as of last week, signs warn visitors that the bridge is closed.

"That's kind of our adventurous side. So I am kind of disappointed that we're not up on that bridge," Gomes said.

Earlier this summer, an engineering firm found that steel used to build the footbridge back in the early 1980s had started to wear down, and it was unsafe for people to be on it.

"We have prioritized pedestrian safety. We have to close this bridge. It is unsafe. But we're going to fix it. We have to. It means so much to us," Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said.

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Sayegh said he has high hopes of redeveloping the area near the falls, so the city is counting on the national park to attract tourists.

"So this is going to become a desirable destination, a top-notch tourist attraction. So, we cannot have afford to have this bridge out of commission for too long," Sayegh said.

The estimated price tag to replace the bridge is between $500,000 and $750,000.

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There is some debate about who's going to pay for that, because there's debate about who actually owns the bridge. Officials with the Passaic Valley Water Commission say the land on either side is owned by the city of Paterson.

"If the city owns it, we're going to own up to it. We're going to seek our federal partners out and our state partners, find funding, and fix the bridge as promptly as possible," Sayegh said.

Caloway asked the mayor how long it could take to replace the bridge. He said he's optimistic and that the best-case scenario is by spring of next year. The worst case would be summer of next year.

Officials say there have been conversations about turning the bridge over to the National Park Service.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report.

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