Close Council Vote Saves Ashland Ore Dock

Updated: 03/11/2014 10:19 PM
Created: 03/11/2014 10:05 PM
By: Travis Dill

A decision whether to save the historic ore dock in Ashland split the city council Tuesday night, but with a 6 to 5 vote the council approved taking control of the dock. Mayor Bill Whalen said over $3 million offered by the dock's current owner, Canadian National, should help improve it for future use.

Canadian National has demolished most of the iconic ore dock that once stood 80 feet above Chequamegon Bay. However, the city council vote saved the base of the dock and the history many residents hold dear.

“It's just the history. I grew up about a block from that dock. I still remember all the ore cars pounding along there and all the boats in the bay,” Norm Peterson said.

Alex Faber also supported saving the dock because of fond memories biking beneath it, but she said not everyone in town agrees.

“I think the city's a little split. A lot of people see it as something iconic and very important to what made Ashland into Ashland and made it something important. Then, for other people it was just an eyesore,” Faber said.

City Councilor Joyce Kabasa loved seeing the dock out her kitchen window, but she felt the city was taking on more than it could afford with the deal.

“I know they want that dock because that's our history, but they got to read our history now at the museum or in a book or something. It's not something we can afford,” Kabasa said.

Canadian National officials assured the councilors the $3.25 million the city would receive in the deal is more than enough to remove the dock base. Some councilors and Mayor Whalen saw that as a backup plan, and for now the money will be put in a trust with hopes it can seed grant money.

Whalen said at a 20 percent match that trust could generate a total of $15 million for developing the dock. He said that could mean creating a fishing pier or a place to winter ships, but no plan has been approved yet by the council.

The city council vote saved what remains of the ore dock, but it will take time to decide how the city will move forward with the historic site.

In the deal, Canadian National also gave Ashland over 50 parcels of land located in the city that were estimated to value $239,000. Councilors also approved marking some of the $3.25 million to repair three roads near the ore dock that were damaged by earlier demolition activity.

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