Oredock plans

A draft view of a possible future for the former Soo Line Oredock was made public Tuesday by the architectural firm SmithgroupJJR of Madison. The project involves work not only to the dock itself, but also on creating easier access to the structure through new roads, parking and restroom facilities.

Ashland area residents got their first look at a draft view of the preferred plan for the redevelopment of the Ashland Oredock deck Tuesday night.

The event, sponsored by the city of Ashland, featured a pair of presenters from SmithgroupJJR of Madison who presented concept drawings prepared from public input on how the dock should be developed.

One piece of very good news came from Smithgroup Landscape Architect Jason Stangland, who told the group that the dock was in fundamentally good condition following the razing of the superstructure.

“That is extremely important,” Stangland said. “The city has an endowment, but that isn’t going to take care of everything. It’s two to three million dollars, but if you were to try and rebuild the structure, you would be talking tens of millions of dollars. Having a structure and a deck that is in good working order is very key.”

In addition to the design and installation of amenities at the dock, the project will entail a number of support projects that will make the dock accessible to the public. Among those are building road extensions, possibly extending Stuntz Avenue to a parking area near the Oredock.

Stangland said the entire cost of the project could cost, depending on the amenities that are finally decided to be included in the project, anywhere from two to six million dollars.

He acknowledged that would mean substantial fundraising form a variety of sources, including grants.

“That is part of our job,” Stangland

said. “Our charge is to help the community find additional fundraising opportunities. We are also looking at partnering with other institutions and looking at opportunities where we can bring in the public and private sectors together and generate some revenue that can help build some of the streets and pay for some of the improvements as well.”

Stangland said that getting a simplified connection from U.S. Highway 2 to the Oredock was key to local use and to attracting tourists.

Despite the potential costs, Stangland said he believed the project was doable, and could be scaled to match the funding available for it.

As for the concept itself, Stangland said the project was driven by public and stakeholder input received to date including a week of intensive design input held in January. He said the goal of Tuesday’s meeting was to gather reaction to the design features in the draft-preferred plan.

That plan calls for elements to recall the dock’s former use as an oredock. That meant reusing metal light poles that were once used on the top of the dock, taking advantage of the dock’s weathered appearance, and other eye-catching elements such as, potentially, a shelter constructed of re-purposed ore chutes.

Roughly the first half of the dock would be used as public space for gatherings, picnics and the like, while the second half of the dock would feature a walkway that would zig-jag across the width of the dock, overlooking the diamonds in the center of the dock, to arrive at a pavilion at the far end of the 1,800 foot structure.

Stangland said the sides of the dock and the diamonds would be open to fishermen and a raised overlook could be built at the halfway point of the dock.

Stangland said a major goal of the meeting was to gather public input into the design proposals.

“We want to make sure everybody understands what is being proposed, and gather additional input and refine the ideas further,” he said.

Stangland said he was “very pleased” with the discussion.

“”There was a lot of discussion about some of the areas where we were struggling,” he said.

Among those issues was the debate over how many safety features, such as guardrails, were necessary.

“I was really happy to hear a lot of people thinking critically about how to deal with safety, how to deal with balancing personal responsibility with safety,” he said.

Stangland said the next step was to take the data gathered Tuesday and use it to review the plan.

“We will be coming back here in about a month and refine the concepts based on the feedback that we have received today and this evening,” he said. “That will become the master plan about what we want to do out on the dock.”

Stangland said Smithgroup would work with the city to identify the first phase of implementation, to start seeking permits, and developing construction documents to move the project forward, as well as looking for funding opportunities to help pay for the development.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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