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
What We're Working On Submitted: 08/24/2016

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

39-year-old Mark Spietz is accused of breaking into and stealing items from the home where Ashlee Martinson is believed to have killed her mother and stepfather in early March of 2017. We'll bring you details from Oneida County court where Spietz's trial is taking place.

We'll bring you local reaction to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission's vote in favor of allowing members to make political donations.

And the Northwoods United Way hopes to encourage natural working leaders to bring working skills into their community. We'll take you to Leaderfest in Harshaw where the goal was to help people grow professionally and personally.

We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

+ Read More

MADISON - Recently the Wisconsin Ethics Commission made a decision that some don't find to be to ethical.

Rhinelander's Tim Vocke, former judge and former member of Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board, does not agree with the state's decision to allow board members to make donations to political campaigns.

Vocke said, "there's no benefit except to the power structure," and he continued by saying, "and when you're dealing with ethics in the government arena, I don't think you have any business belonging to any party and certainly not supporting political candidates."

+ Read More

MADISON - Unemployment fell in most of Wisconsin's largest cities and counties last month.

New data the state Department of Workforce Development released Wednesday shows unemployment dropped in 30 of the state's 32 largest cities from June to July. Mount Pleasant and Racine were the only two cities that showed an increase. Racine had the highest unemployment of any city at 7.2 percent, up from 6.9 percent in June.

+ Read More

PELICAN LAKE - Many college students are heading back to campus soon. But for two Northwoods natives who just graduated, they wanted to come back home and start their own business.

Mike Fowler and Weston Lowe brought their diplomas back to the Pelican Lake this summer with a mission to start a new business.

"This year we both finished school and decided it was time to continue this and expand," said owner and operator Weston Lowe.

The 22 and 23-year old friends have been working together since high school. To make a living they have now started their own business, Pelican Piers. It's a dock and lift removal system.

"I took it upon myself and the help of my business partner, Mike to create something that would make it possible to live in the Northwoods and make a living," said Lowe.

Removing docks and lifts can damage the shorelines. Both Fowler and Lowe wanted to avoid destroying the beauty of the Northwoods.

"With the shoreline deteriorating every year, this will help. We can set the lift on the shore and we don't have to drag it and knock rocks off into the water after people have paid to get that fixed," said owner and operator Mike Fowler.

The easiest way for them to maintain the shorelines was to buy a 7,000 pound tri-toon. This machine simply lifts, moves and then sets down the equipment safely on the shoreline.

"In the bed, you can see the black part of the boat, that's the forks. They extend out and we can pick up any boat lift, any dock and set it on your shore without destroying your riff raff," said Fowler.

Getting their business started at such a young age has had its challenges, like with funding for their barge. But staying in the Northwoods has made it worth it.

"The freedom of owning my own business and being able to be out on the lake everyday working," said Lowe.

+ Read More

HARSHAW - A lot of people like to separate their work life and personal life.

The Northwoods United Way hopes to encourage natural working leaders to bring those skills into their community. 

It held Leaderfest in Harshaw Wednesday.

+ Read More

WASHINGTON - Donald Trump's new Wisconsin women coalition includes some of the most powerful politicians in the state, and two who were caught up in a highly publicized investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's county office.

The unveiling of the statewide group Wednesday comes as polls show Trump trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton overall in Wisconsin and among women.

+ Read More

MADISON - Wisconsin's average score on the ACT college entrance exam dropped below the national average in the first year that all graduating seniors took the test.

Wisconsin's average 20.5 score is below the national average of 20.8. The state score is down 1.7 points from last year when 73 percent of seniors took the exam.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here