Loading
Search
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

LAONA - For the first time in his life, Melvin Casiano got to walk across a graduation stage.

"I feel nervous at the same time, but proud that I made it this far," said 19-year-old Casiano.

Casiano is one of 16 students that graduated from Blackwell Job Corps' first structural firefighting course.

It's an accomplishment that he never thought was possible.

+ Read More

Play Video

MERRILL - As shoppers rush down aisles carrying Christmas lists, Merrill firefighters carry Christmas tags.

"We're just finishing up, wrapping up some loose ends," firefighter Jon Leiskau said.

Leiskau, his chief, and battalion chief spent several hours this week hunting the shelves at the Merrill Walmart, looking to make Christmas a little more special for hundreds of kids.

"Make sure we have everyone taken care of," Leiskau said.

+ Read More

Play Video

WAUSAU - Wausau police officers believe they're pretty good at caching criminals. But they say they're not so good at helping victims suffering from mental trauma. 

To try to fix that, the Wausau Police Department will hire a mental health therapist to serve in the Victim Resource unit. 

+ Read More

LANSING, MI - Michigan lawmakers may re-enact a wolf-hunting law declared unconstitutional by the state appeals court.

The Republican-led Senate voted 27-10 along party lines Thursday to define wolves as a game species and to authorize the state to designate game. The bill goes to the House.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - We often bring you stories of efforts to fight aquatic invasive species in the Northwoods during the summer. It's tempting to think that invasives don't pose a problem during the winter.

But conservation workers want you to rethink that idea. Species like Eurasian watermilfoil don't simply wither underwater in the winter.

"Eurasian watermilfoil is considered a perennial. However, I consider it an evergreen. A lot of people do," said Oneida County AIS Coordinator Stephanie Boismenue. "The reason being is it's winter-hardy. It's capable to live and grow underneath the ice."

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Cupcakes and donuts might sound like a recipe for packing on some pounds, but a Rhinelander man is blazing his way through social media by showing off healthy spins on those tasty treats.

The man behind the apron is Dustin Chronister, known as "The Flexible Baker" on the social media platform, Instagram.

Chronister has over 30,000 followers from all over the world.

Chronister posts photos of his healthy treats, then the likes and followers flood in.

"It is super humbling because I never expected it, but it's refreshing," said Chronister.

Chronister is a competitive weight lifter.

To maintain a certain weight, he knew he couldn't eat his favorite traditional desserts.

Chronister decided to create recipes using alternative ingredients like adding protein and sugar substitutes.

Many of his recipes are less than 100 calories.

"I had to figure how to enjoy those sweets and maintain that healthy lifestyle. Then this was born. I just wanted to have my cake and eat it too, and kept it rolling after that," said Chronister.

Chronister recently wrote a second e-book with all his healthy recipes, so he continues to post pictures on Instagram every day.

He reminds people to be "flexible" and find balance in their diets.

+ Read More

COLUMBUS, OH - Former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn has died in Ohio. He was 95.

Glenn became a national hero in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth.

Hank Wilson with the John Glenn School of Public Affairs says Glenn died Thursday afternoon at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 





Click Here