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So long, oredock ... demolition to begin this month

Ashland commission grants necessary permits for demolition

Staff Writer
Published: Friday, May 15, 2009 11:19 AM CDT
Take your pictures, paint your paintings, do everything except walk to the end of the former Soo Line oredock (that's illegal), because demolition work will begin this month.

The Ashland Planning Commission during a special meeting Thursday granted Canadian National, owner of the 1,986-foot dock, approval on both a site plan for the demolition and a right-of-way license dealing with a haul route.

"We do this with a heavy heart," Commission member Jane Smith said during the meeting.
Rotting wood, and corroding steel and concrete, are all reasons why the dock — which ceased to be used in 1965 — must come down, and why some areas are even considered an imminent safety hazard. That's according to a structural inspection completed in 2006 and 2007 by Westbrook Associates.

Canadian National (CN) has hired Minnesota-based Veit & Company to manage the demolition, and the company will begin this month prepping the site, encapsulating what's left of the lead-based paint in a protective foam and disassembling the wooden trestle on shore. The entire project is expected to take 18 months.

The work will run in two concurrent phases to remove chutes, ties, remaining stair steps, concrete and other materials on the structure, which was built in two sections in 1916 and 1925.

All material on the oredock would be removed down to the concrete base, which city officials and many local residents hope still can be utilized for public recreational purposes.

The company does plan on placing steel plates over open spaces on the dock's base, as well as deflection shields for safety. Although no provisions for saving the base are written into the contract, Veit's project manager, Scott Lodico, said, "We certainly don't want to wreck it, either."

One local resident even suggested a safety concern behind leaving the base in place, as a nor'easter could impact the Ashland Marina and a nor'wester could impact the Clarkson dock to the east.

Commission member Kathy Allen also expressed concern during the meeting about the city's intake valve for its water supply even further to the east.

Veit's plan is to place what it calls a "turbidity curtain" on both sides of the dock as it moves from the end toward the shore during demolition. That would, ideally, catch dust, concrete and other material falling from the dock during the work.

When the work is complete, Veit will conduct post-demolition dredging to remove any material that has fallen into the lake — and requires a state Department of Natural Resources permit to do so. An environmental consultant contracted by Veit said during the meeting that, as they move that curtain along the dock, the companies "don't anticipate" recirculation of that material into the lake at large.

The work will obviously spur an increased amount of truck traffic, although Lodico could not estimate how many trucks because that could change from day to day or even week to week.

The planned haul route would be from U.S. Highway 2 onto either Seventh Avenue East or Ninth Avenue East north to Water St., and one of the avenues to return to the highway.

Lodico said the company is still in negotiations on who might get all the concrete from the dock, and the steel will likely go to the highest bidder.

Since none of those streets are designed for heavy hauling, and aren't in the greatest shape now, the trucks will no doubt have an impact. But the city, CN and Veit have yet to work out a cost-sharing agreement for road repairs after the demolition.

The hours of operation for the project are expected to be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, with possible weekend work if needed. Work will also cease during holidays and festivals.

The work will also result in a detour of the city's waterfront trail, taking pedestrians up Ninth Avenue East to St. Claire Street over to Prentice Avenue. And it would likely have an impact on Kreher Park — although City Administrator Brian Knapp said the city could be surprised by the amount of "deconstruction tourism."

Several locals echoed Smith's comments that the city and state did all that could be done to save the dock. Jan Cameron said although no one in the city wants to hear the term "No-Dockers," at least the city, and local and state historical societies, tried.

"We've literally tried every single thing we could do," she said.


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The following are comments from the readers. In no way do they represent the view of

stefjaeger wrote on May 15, 2009 12:31 PM:

" Way too go city of ashland. One more reason why tourists won't come to Ashland. I have a really hard time believing you did everything you could to save it. "

drbiglow wrote on May 15, 2009 1:57 PM:

" Unfortunately, it has been in decline and disrepair for many years. I suspect a change in the "oredockers" motto will be in order now as well for the HS. I remember many a day in my youth fishing off of it. stefjaeger makes an interesting point that it was a landmark for of the few left. The shoreline along US2 / Lake Shore Dr has changed so much in the past 10 yrs that it is barely recognizable anymore. I am certain repairs would be impossibly expensive unless the State could step in as a historic landmark...but even then, economic times aren't great right now. We've been hearing about this situation for years and now its demise has come to fruition. But without community action and, more importantly, $$$, there's not much that can be done to save it.I wonder how Superior how dealt with a similar situation along its shoreline? I will sorely miss it and suspect the tourists will as well. A shame the city can't just post "no trespassing" and still protect themselves from lawsuits as it crumbles to the ground. Insurance is a big liability. "

theoboley wrote on May 15, 2009 2:49 PM:

" I personally wouldn't be surprised if people chained themselves to the oredock in protest of tearing it down. "

leilabee wrote on May 15, 2009 4:07 PM:

" One of the few things about Ashland that I actually miss. I am glad I live in Marquette MI and can see the oredocks here and think of home. The next time I am in Ashland I think I will cry not seeing the oredock. "

eric19602000 wrote on May 15, 2009 5:59 PM:

" Think of your dismay at losing a piece of your history and multiple that times fifty.

Then you may realize the pain the loss of the iron mines on the Gogebic Range has caused. The mines were reason the ore dock is there in the first place. "

blahblahblah wrote on May 15, 2009 8:03 PM:

" I think Martinsen should drop a pretty penny to keep it! "

mahnka07 wrote on May 16, 2009 6:41 AM:

" I lived in Ashland for 18 years before leaving for college in Appleton, WI. I have been missing Lake Superior ever since, and when I used to come home to visit, there were all of the pieces of Ashland...sadly enough, each peice has been slowly taken away over the past five years. It's true, it's not a recognizable city anymore. It doesn't feel like Home at all. "

lumberjack wrote on May 16, 2009 6:49 AM:

" Why should Martinsen be the scapegoat? Why don't YOU put up your money. An oredock that is structuarly poor, but people want to keep it becuase of fond memories - maybe everyone should keep their old broken down cars in their front yard becuase of the great memories. Good for some - eyesore for many.

Good job ashland for stepping up. "

stosh wrote on May 16, 2009 9:16 AM:

" I think it is great,as it sits nobody can even go near it.
just think ashland you could have your very own coney island,hot coffee,bait hotdogs or should i say dock dogs,get big ben out there,kids fishing contests,bike trail.
I could go on and on. its all about "VISION" "

ericjolen wrote on May 16, 2009 10:44 AM:

" Im gonna post the unpopular opinion that maybe the waterfront will be more attractive without a vestige symbol of industrialism, and that maybe a culture that values natural beauty would choose a different local symbol than say a cutover landscape or a conduit for natural resources sell-off? It just may be good for the local collective psyche to have symbols that have more inherent values than commerce and consumerism. Instead of oredockers how about something like Arborists or something? If you can't tell I lean towards the eyesore crowd. "

coldH2Owi wrote on May 16, 2009 12:25 PM:

" What a colossal failure of civic leadership. "

santowi wrote on May 16, 2009 2:38 PM:

" The real eyesore is a new auto dealership built on the lakefront. That pretty much sums up Ashland's lack of vision. "

jynxdog wrote on May 17, 2009 12:18 PM:

" Change is inevitable they say, and so it goes. I have been in Arizona for twenty-six years now, but grew up in Ashland. My family and I love to return to Ashland for vacations to enjoy the small town feel, the weather and most of all the lake. One of the items on my list of things to do has always been to visit the ore dock. I have always found a very peaceful and familiar feeling there. I fished there many times as a kid. I had always enjoyed the walk out to the end, and loved fishing "at the diamonds". I am old enough to remember when the dock was still in operation. I would listen at night as the ore punchers would slam the ore into the holds on the ships. I always loved to hear the train and ships whistles as they seemed to find each other, answering from land to open lake far in the distance, and increasingly louder as they approached. I will miss my old friend...Ashland will never be the same without her. "

batman wrote on May 18, 2009 7:17 AM:

" With the state of the auto industry, I'm not sure you'll have to worry about 1 being built on the lake.Or any where else for that matter. "

Jeff Douglas wrote on May 18, 2009 8:22 AM:

" I know many have great memories of being "on" the ourdock & using it as if it were a park. (i sure do)-- Imagine the outcry if an insustry wanted to build something even remotely close to that type of structure today. "

Leave the base in good condition.... wrote on May 18, 2009 10:25 AM:

" The city has been trying for years to get the railroad to tear it down to the base, and then get millions from the railroad to redesign the base, put up railings, put a smooth layer over the top, etc. Wild ideas about amusement parks, wind power generators, hauling soil out there for green space (as is, smoothed out and with railings would be ok for me, it is what it is).

Obviously, the city had no bargaining power then, and maybe not too much now.

How will the deck of the oredock be left?

It could be a real asset. It could be a liability. Other cities have docks with no railings. Up and down the coasts there are wonderful wharfs and docks, many higher from the water than this.

I don't know how the dock base would be left.

If the city agrees to take over ownership, will it be cleaned up? Smoothed out? Outfitted with railings?

Or will the railroad continue to own it and just put another gate across it to hamper people from getting onto it?

Do we have any leverage?

Can we get the governor's office involved?

Any political pressure beyond what Ashland has tried?


Nothing fancy. Just safety. With no trip hazards. "

PattyMcClellen wrote on May 18, 2009 12:51 PM:

" It's a shame this beautiful piece of Ashland's history is being taken away! Not enough was done to save it!!! "

JW wrote on May 18, 2009 2:11 PM:

" You know, you don't need an actual ore dock fer da town sports teams to be called the Ore Dockers. Superior HS is the Spartans, and there haven't been any of those dress-wearin' warriors around for 2000 years.

Maybe it's sad da ore dock is going, but hey, tearin' it down will create some jobs fer da next 18 months. Maybe this'll help da local economy. "

theoboley wrote on May 18, 2009 4:29 PM:

" SantoWI -

HH&T's new building an eyesore??

If you say that then i ask you,

What exactly was JAMES RIVER after it shut down, and lay dormant for what, 10+ years?

Sounds to me like you'd rather have NO industry coming into an already ailing community just to "Beautify" it.

Well let me tell you something... People may stop and take pictures of family in front of the lake, yes, but most of them would pass on through without a thought.

HH&T are doing damn well in keeping the lake visible.

Looks a WHOLE LOT better than it did with james river laying dormant. "

BMertig wrote on May 18, 2009 5:57 PM:

" I too grew up fishing from the dock in the 70's and 80's. Spent many days out there fishing trout, perch and northern. I will also miss seeing the dock when I come home, but I remember standing on the dock and having peices of concrete fall around me. That was almost 35 years ago. I can only imagine what shape the structure is in today. Safety of the public should be the City's major concern. "

darbie2 wrote on May 18, 2009 6:24 PM:

" What would be wrong with just
leaving it as it is? Sure somebody
could be stupid and get hurt
climbing on it right? Post signs
like now and if somebody is dumb
enough to climb it and fall off so be it.
I guess in a lawsuit happy world
you have to spend millions to remove
the chance of some Judge awarding millions? Seems all to be great stupidity if you ask me. Which of course you didn't..... "

santowi wrote on May 18, 2009 9:29 PM:

" theoboly,
Obviously the James River plant was an eyesore, but my point was the auto dealer could have built inland instead of replacing one eyesore with another. Now some Japanese car dealer from Hurley will add a few jobs at the expense of the Von Holzen dealership and others. This sad shortsightedness will continue to keep Ashland another little hardscrabble northern town instead of a place people want to go. A bust town even in boom times. Depressing & eternally ailing. Pity. "

explorer36 wrote on May 19, 2009 10:22 AM:

" Unfortunately saving the base will also require millions as the wooden piers that make up the base are deteriorating. The fill used is slipping out the sides which is what has caused all of the sinkholes to form in the dirt portion. Saving the base will require metal sheet pilings.
I would like to see this done for a length of the dock. A breakwall may be important to help prevent downstream drift of lakeshore in the bay as well as additinoal ice and wave damage to other structures on the bay, as mentioned.The money will have to come from somewhere and I just don't see this council investing in the future of this town. Not judging just observations, my taxes are high enough, not sure what the right thing is here. "

Theoboley wrote on May 19, 2009 11:47 AM:

" I say if they want to blow all that money on lake shore frontage, that's their right. I applaud HH&T for making good on the resources at hand

And for the record

"Now some Japanese car dealer from Hurley"

I wasn't aware that Hurley was in Japan? ;-) "

jennyb0613 wrote on May 19, 2009 12:52 PM:

" Sad to see that it is going to be destroyed, but maybe something else can be put in there that our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids will be fond of and remember years down the road like we all did with the oredock. I was an Oredocker/Dockerette and very proud to be one - but I don't think the school system should change the name just because it is gone. All the more reason to keep it Ashland Oredockers/Dockerettes "

to explorer wrote on May 19, 2009 1:53 PM:

" would hydraulic cement poured in from the top stem the erosion from the bottom? Any body every study that? We have spent tens of thousands of dollars on all sorts of plans, some of which will never come to fruition, has anyone thought to come up with a cost for this? Millions? cost per foot? How long is the oredock, anyway? A lot of the breakers are cement. And there already is a lot of cement there. Are they planning on removing it down to the lakebed?
who knows? "

to madmax wrote on May 19, 2009 1:54 PM:

" Who started this rumor anyway? I would like to shoot him in the ...... "

beatles2artc wrote on May 19, 2009 2:43 PM:

" It's a good thing the Parthenon, the great Pyramids of Giza, and the Roman colliseum aren't located in Ashland. My vote is - put a fence around it and leave it alone. It's a relic and a ruin of a bygone day. In other parts of the world, such edifices are protected as an important part of what determines our cultural identity. "

masbach wrote on May 19, 2009 3:40 PM:

" I'll be very sad to see it go...but on the other hand, just leaving it there to watch it continue to rot & fall apart sounds a lot more depressing to me. Anyone who has read the studies they've done on the Oredock's structural integrity knows it's past the point where it can realistically be saved. (Best case scenario at this point: a portion of the base is left behind.) Better to have it come down in a controlled manner than to have it just start collapsing bit by bit.

Having spent a lot of time on Water Street since I was a kid, it's amazing to note all the deterioration that's occurred on the dock in my lifetime--the buildings on the top have caved in, there's tons of vegetation growing along the pillars and even along the top rails, the chutes are falling off (at least three on the eastern side!). It's sad to see a piece of history vanish, but there just isn't any money out there for saving this kind of thing, it seems... "

Lotech1000 wrote on May 19, 2009 7:58 PM:

" I feel that Ashland has chosen to forget how it grew, and what brought people to it in the first place. Ashland has removed virtually every sign of the lumber mills that joined with the four oredocks to shape the Ashland shoreline. I guess that if you want to lose your identity, and forget what makes Ashland stand out, its your choice, but as for me, I feel that when something helps to provide your identity, you should protect it as best you can, so that you don't have to wonder who you are.
I grew up on the east side of the oredock in the 70's and 80's, and can still remember the impact of the ship "Belle River" knocking those three schutes off of the east side of the oredock. It wasn't cracking concrete, but a 1005' ore carrier that tried to speed up too soon, creating the vacuum that sucked the ship into the side of the dock.
Ashland, you've forgotten yourself. I now live in Ironwood, MI, and feel that I no longer know the very town I was born in. What is Ashland? An experiment in how to erase the past in order for everyone in it to life in huts, and a forest. What's next? US 2? Or maybe WI 13?
When we forget our past, we forget ourselves. "

santowi wrote on May 19, 2009 9:26 PM:

" Theoboley,
For HH&T, "Just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean doing it is right."
For you,
Enjoy shopping for Hondas in Ashland. I'll do my shopping in Duluth.
And for the record,,
"The right to free speech does not include the right to be taken seriously."
-Hubert H. Humphrey "

Chris wrote on May 19, 2009 11:15 PM:

" Non of the chutes have fallen off due to decay, the 3 missing on the east side are from the James R. Barker, when it was docked there during a strike, the Indiana Harbor torn one off on the west side around the same time "

lomix wrote on May 20, 2009 10:38 AM:

" The city of Ashland had every chance to own the ore dock and do what they please with it but refused to take control of it because they did not want the liability that came with it. Now it is coming down, all of it including the base. Nothing is going to be saved. Its not safe, falling into the lake and it has to go. If your looking for someone to blame, blame all of Ashland. CN offered to give it away and ALL of Ashland refuse it. If it was really that important to this town someone should have saved it! Now its too late. "

Theoboley wrote on May 20, 2009 10:50 AM:

" Santowi,

Why exactly isn't it right??? You've made your point pretty clear that you're an environmental activist, aka hippy, yet you've given no educated points as to why HH&T is so BAD for Ashland??

And FYI, I own a Toyota. This now makes it easier to have my car serviced.

Another point i'd like to make. I don't intend to have any of my points be taken seriously, I mostly come on here to give my two cents, and stir the figurative $hit.

kthxbai "

explorer36 wrote on May 20, 2009 11:27 AM:

" Hydraulic cement would not be contained without sheet piling. "

Just say no to cookie cutters wrote on May 20, 2009 11:48 AM:

" cookie cutter is a good way to describe the "progress"

Ashland is beginning to look like any other town.

That is the downside of ripping down historic buildings and replacing them with modern new, OR, tearing them down and and ironically spending say 6-8 million dollars on a new state of the art fire department that mimics and "LOOKS OLD" and quaint. Moral of story is you can not rebuild the kind of a building that we have in the Ellis fire station. It would be cost prohibitive.

For example, even if we rebuilt, Instead of solid buildings, we would rebuild with just face bricks. Not the same. Cookie cutter. We have the real thing.

Yes, I miss the landmarks, too.

In Europe, they value the old.

In Ashland, it is all to let a few developers make a buck. Tear down, build up, sell for a profit With the city's help and blessing and money. I remember when the Marine Club was added on to. And the motel. That developer ran the council. It is hard not to get excited when developers are so passionate about their new projects, and when they promise the moon. Their lobbying is acutely focused on getting a majority of councilpeople, and the mayor, and key city administrators behind them. There is a lot of pressure on just a few people. Often councillors are convinced that their actions are a good thing and they vote for new buildings instead of retrofitting the old ... Get on board...for change and destruction....I have to admit, I would be tempted at times, too. New can be very attractive......and exciting....

With city owned property though, it should be different.

Some of the decisions lately, have put our own city owned historical buildings in jeopardy.

Maybe the city should, (instead of citing their focus groups, and their committee meetings that no one from the public objected to, because no one attended), put these questions up for a vote in the general elections.

Do you want to vacate the Vaughn library building and move the library elsewhere?

Do you want to vacate the Ellis fire station and build elsewhere?

Do you want to build a state of the art fire station building large enough that it would house eventually house the city police?

I believe the results of that referendum would be a resounding "NO".

We have very few vestiges of the past, we have lost churches, hotels, and now the dock. City workers go to work in some of these wonderful historic buildings. I see no need to build anything new.

In a town with so much unemployment and underemployment, many would give their eye teeth to leave their homes in the morning and have a city job-with benefits- in any kind of building. To report to city hall, the Vaughn Library, or the Ellis fire hall would be an honor. "

eeediot wrote on May 20, 2009 12:31 PM:

" beatles2artc-

All of those are national landmarks, each of which are thousands of years old.

Oredock: (and you'll have to forgive me as i don't know ashland's history) maybe 150 years at best

Comparing the two are like apples and oranges. "

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