NEWS STORIES

Saving the Ore DockSubmitted: 03/15/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com


ASHLAND - In Rhinelander, the Hodag symbolizes the community.

In another northern Wisconsin community, it's something else.

And Ashland could be about to lose that icon.

"Everyone has an ore dock story," says Jan Cameron, the Vice President of the Ashland Historical Society Board.

Since it has jutted into Chequamegon Bay since 1916, it figures that folks here have a connection to Ashland's iconic ore dock.

"My grandfather helped build these ore docks," says Jeff Peters, an Ashland native.

"Pretty neat spot to be when it's midnight and the northern lights are out, and you're 21 years old," remembers Fred Tidstrom.

"We've been loving this dock as a community for a long, long, time, and it's really very difficult for us to see it go down," says Cameron.

But as it nears its centennial birthday, this symbol of Ashland's fate looks like it has been written.

Cameron is with the Ashland Historical Museum, a place where you can journey through time with the ore dock.

"It's a massive structure. If you stood it on end, it would be taller than the Sears Tower," she says.

Iron ore mined in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula would come to the Ashland area by train.

Rail cars would follow the tracks onto the top of the dock, and empty their cargo onto waiting barges below.

That ore was shipped to the vibrant steel mills across America.

Between miners and those on the trains, docks, and ships, the process was an economy in itself.

"People identify with a way of life. They're very proud of it, they cherish it. For so many years, so many people got their livelihood off of the ore dock," says State Rep. Janet Bewley, an Ashland Democrat.

Then, in the middle of the 20th century, "as soon as the mines stopped mining, the ore stopped being shipped. It was as simple as that," Cameron says.

The last ship left the dock with ore in 1965.

For more than forty years, Ashland's beloved symbol sat dormant.

Then, the seemingly unthinkable.

"It just became too much of a liability. It's been a bitter pill," Cameron says.

The owners, the Canadian National railroad, after talking with several government groups, started taking it down.

"It's hard. It's hard to see a way of life go away," says Bewley.

But the metal was rusting, the wood was deteriorating, and the concrete was breaking.

The environmental and safety liability was just too much, something tough for natives here to take.

The nearly 100-year old ore dock is not only an iconic image in Ashland.

It's part of something deeper for people who live there, and whose families have lived there for generations.

It's part of their identity.

"Ashland High School is named after the ore dock. They're the Oredockers," says Peters.

Tidstrom was on the 1946 Ashland football team that helped give them that name.

Ashland shocked Wausau High School with a 13-7 upset win.

Wausau had won 46 straight games coming in.

A local sportswriter captured the excitement.

"After the game, he wrote up the story, and he called us the Oredockers. We thought that was pretty cool," Tidstrom remembers.

Now, the monument the team was named after is in danger of vanishing.

"Once it's gone, we get comments as bad as, 'do we get to be the No-Dockers?'" says Cameron.

"I tell them, it isn't the dock, it's the men. They were a proud group of men that had a dangerous job to feed their family. So you're honoring the men, not the dock," says Tidstrom.

Already the upper structure is mostly gone.

Other parts of the dock will continue to be dismantled.

But that doesn't mean the ore dock's legacy has to disappear forever.

The dock's base, everything near or below the waterline, remains in good condition.

"To build upon it is a very do-able thing. It's of a scale that, I think, resonates with people in a much more obtainable way," Bewley says.

Peters is one of the people thinking ahead to new memories that could be made on the new look of the ore dock.

He's not short of ideas.

"Educational interpretive center...a cruise line has expressed interest...transient boat docking facility...fishing piers for kids," says Peters. "The most important thing is if area residents, citizens, want to see the ore dock preserved and renovated, they've got to show their support right now. As I see it, we can win, but we need a real grassroots level of support."

"We will always have a dock. We will always have that. Then we'll have that to build tomorrow on," Bewley says.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

ST. GERMAIN - Bikinis and snowmobiles don't typically mix. Except, when you're at the St. Germain Bikini Run.

The event draws a huge crowd every year and it raised thousands of dollars for charity.

"We started with six girls and maybe $8000 seven years ago. Now, we're up to 33 girls today and more than $50,000," says Mark Hiller, the St. Germain Radar Run race director. "Every year it just grows, and grows."

+ Read More

MILWAUKEE - A winter storm warning will go into effect in the Milwaukee area and far southern Wisconsin on Saturday night " and the National Weather Service says as much as 10 inches of snow could fall in Kenosha County by early Monday.

Snow is forecast to begin falling late Saturday and continue all day Sunday. Lake-effect snow is expected to combine with a low pressure system from the south to drive up snowfall totals in far southeast Wisconsin. Milwaukee could see up to 9 inches.

Blowing and drifting snow is expected and winds could gust to over 30 mph, making travel dangerous.

Other parts of the state, including Sheboygan, Dodge, and Waukesha counties, will be under a winter weather advisory starting Saturday night. Snow accumulations could reach 4 to 7 inches.

+ Read More

MADISON - A team of students from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is conducting research on foxes and coyotes in hopes of learning how the animals and humans can peacefully coexist.

Forest and wildlife associate professor David Drake and his students are humanely trapping the animals, running tests, then fitting them with tracking devices. The goal is to learn about traveling patterns, diseases the animals might have, and how they interact with other animals and humans.

Drake says foxes and coyotes are moving into areas where people are living. And if that continues, and the animals lose their fear of humans, they could become aggressive in extreme cases.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says residents should stay a safe distance from foxes or coyotes, and shouldn't feed them.

+ Read More

Play Video

PINE RIVER - Firefighters in Pine River had a tough day Saturday. They battled a house fire Friday night.

Crews didn't finish cleaning up the scene until 3:30 Saturday morning. Then they got called to a second fire in the afternoon.

The first fire happened at 9:12 p.m. The Lincoln County Dispatch Center got a call about a possible structure fire on County Highway WW in the Town of Pine River. That's east of Merrill, but when the Pine River Department got there, the house was in flames.

+ Read More

Play Video

WAUSAU - Enrollment for health coverage will end soon. That's why healthcare providers participated in "Super Saturday".

Bridge Clinic in Wausau welcomed people to sign up for health insurance options Saturday.

The Open Enrollment deadline is February 15th. If you don't sign up before then, it could cost you $325 or more depending on your income.

"We recommend just make an informed choice. Don't just let it lapse and get the penalty, be surprised with a penalty later on. Come in, make an informed choice. There are health care options," said Bridge Community Health Clinic Executive Director Laura Scudiere.

+ Read More

Play Video

NORTHWOODS - The U.S. Forest Service will hire thousands of temporary workers this spring. Leaders at the Chequamegon Nicolet Forest Service want to hire more than 50 temporary employees to work during summer. They're looking for people with diverse backgrounds and plenty of experience.

+ Read More

HUDSON - A standoff between police and a man in Hudson has ended with the man taken into custody.

Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen says a man with a "known history of violence" was arrested shortly before 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Police were initially called to the house at 3 a.m. Jensen says the man had trashed his ex-girlfriend's home and phone, but she was able to get to a friend's house and call police.

The woman told police there was a handgun in the house. Roughly eight nearby homes were evacuated as police and the SWAT team tried to get the man to come outside.

Jensen says no shots were fired, but authorities used tear gas and other chemicals during the standoff.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here