Originally posted in The Union newspaper February 19, 2014
Empire Mine to work with state on “mining experience” plan
By Keri Brenner
Members of the Empire Mine Park Association board agreed Tuesday to work with the state on a new plan for what remains from the now-scrapped underground tourist mining tunnel at the Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley.
A majority of the board, meeting in closed session, voted to move forward with the California Department of Parks and Recreation in upcoming negotiations on the next steps, said Larry Skinner, board president.
“We will be working with the state to outline steps to take in the future,” Skinner said after the closed session. Board members are expected to assist the state in salvaging some type of “mining experience” for tourists out of what was supposed to be a ride back in time through an authentically restored 850-foot-long horizontal gold mine shaft, or “adit”.
The state halted the underground mining tour project in October amid apparent concerns over additional expenditures needed to shore up the structural beams for safety reasons. The Union reported in December that there were concerns that the steels beams inside the mine shaft were deteriorating.
On Tuesday “a small minority” of the board voted “no” on pursuing the alternative plan with the state, Skinner said. He declined to elaborate or to say how many of the 10 members present at Tuesday’s meeting voted “no”. “Let’s just say they had a philosophical disagreement,” Skinner said. Chances are likely that the dissenters have had enough after 10 years of volunteer efforts to help build $3.5 million worth of what was supposed to be the shining jewel of Gold Rush historical park attractions. Several of the board members have expressed disappointment since the state’s decision to in October and after a confirmation of the decision issued Feb. 4.
In addition to the 850-foot-long tunnel, workers built a tour center, motorized cars to transport visitors into the mine shaft, a utilities building, a restroom and a maintenance building. It was not immediately clear what would be done with all the facilities. “It won’t be called an ‘adit’ or an ‘underground tour’ because neither of those terms are appropriate anymore,” Skinner said. “I think it will be called something like ‘mining experience’.” Skinner said the majority of the board on Tuesday authorized him to sign agreements with the state, likely within two weeks.