Loading

63°F

64°F

64°F

63°F

64°F

63°F

63°F

66°F

64°F
NEWS STORIES

Saving the Ore DockSubmitted: 03/15/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Play Video

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
2014 numbers good for state banksSubmitted: 08/29/2014

Play Video

LAONA - Only one in twenty banks in Wisconsin lost money in the first half of 2014.

Industry leaders see that as a sign of success and progress.

Those numbers had been worse over the past few years, especially during the recession.

Wisconsin banks made about a half-billion dollars in the first six months of the year. Their total assets were above $100 billion.

+ Read More
North Lakeland Discovery Center welcomes a new executive directorSubmitted: 08/29/2014

Play Video

MANITOWISH WATERS - The North Lakeland Discovery Center will welcome a new executive director.

The center in Manitowish Waters focuses on connecting people with nature. That's how Azeal Meza first connected with the discovery center. He says he is excited to move forward as the executive director.

"I was immediately impressed with the organization," says Meza. "I have been part of the bird club for a while, and it's a nice place where I come here with my family to hike the trials, paddle, you name it."

+ Read More
Former deputy suspected of homicide due in courtSubmitted: 08/29/2014

- A former Dane County sheriff's deputy suspected of fatally shooting his wife and sister-in-law is due in court.

Andy Steele is scheduled for an appearance in Dane County Circuit Court Friday afternoon. Steele could be formally charged Friday in the deaths of 39-year-old Ashley Steele and her 38-year-old sister, Kacee Tollefsbol, of Lake Elmo Minnesota.

+ Read More
Ginseng harvest season starts MondaySubmitted: 08/29/2014

Play Video

STATEWIDE - People could sell Wisconsin wild ginseng root for as much as $1,000 per pound last year.

Wisconsin's ginseng is known as some of the best in the world.

Some believe it gives people energy and has other health benefits.

It's seen an increase in popularity and demand.

+ Read More
Walker says GOP complacency a big concernSubmitted: 08/29/2014

Play Video

MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker says complacency and fatigue among Republican voters is one of his biggest concerns as he faces re-election in less than 10 weeks.

Walker addressed his concerns Friday on WTMJ-AM when asked about a poll released on Wednesday indicating that Democrats were more enthused about the upcoming election that Republicans. Walker calls that ``one of my biggest concerns.''

The Marquette University Law School poll showed the race between Walker and Democrat Mary Burke to be a dead heat, both among registered and likely voters.

+ Read More
Firefighters and WPS workers work together for confined space trainingSubmitted: 08/29/2014

MERRILL - Firefighters put in a lot of work to help people in a variety of different crises.

They need to go through a lot of training to know how to do that.

The Merrill Fire Department got valuable training this week.

They got the chance to practice rescuing someone from a confined space at the hydro power plant in Merrill.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the Merrill Fire Department to partner with WPS. Anytime we can get realistic training it's very very valuable to us," says the captain in charge of training Mike Drury.

+ Read More
Wisconsin State Patrol reinforces consequences of speeding in construction zones Submitted: 08/29/2014

Play Video

MARATHON COUNTY - Each year in Wisconsin, both highway workers and motorists die or are hurt in crashes that happen in highway construction zones. Drivers need to slow down and obey the posted speed limit. In Marathon County, Wisconsin State Patrol doesn't treat drivers any differently.

Sergeant Travis Wanless of the Wisconsin State Patrol started his Wednesday morning off on Highway 51 by taking up both lanes to slow down traffic for rock blasting.

"We are blasting. I'm going to get you sick here, but I want to make sure these guys know I'm stopping," Wanless said.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here