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History buffs want old mining site turned into tourism and events center

Ontario Mine Exhibit of female miner Shelley Sabey
Park City Museum Archives
Ontario Mine Exhibit of female miner Shelley Sabey

Two long-time Park City mining history buffs want the city to dedicate the city-owned Ontario #3 mine site and building on Marsac Avenue as a tourism and events center.

A center isn’t a brand-new concept for the site: the mine building and shaft were open to visitors for about two and a half years, from 1995 to 1998. Park City Silver Mine Adventure gave visitors an authentic mine experience by lowering them into the shaft, which is now wholly blocked after decades of nonuse.

Marianne Cone is one Park City resident and mining history enthusiast who wants the property to once again be used for visitors and events. She and Sally Elliott, a preservation activist, recently took the new city council members up to see the area.

“So, we've taken multiple trips up there with the city manager and different historical groups. And we thought, well, maybe it's time the rest of the council knows about this. We're talking about using the front part, which is now being used for Public Works, which I consider is underutilized for what that space could be. And so, we're talking about starting by taking the front piece, which is a big room, and creating a space for an event center.”

Park City Public Works and the Jordanelle Public Services District currently use the building and property for storage.

Cone said historic exhibits remain in the building, and much of the infrastructure is still intact. Bathrooms, emergency exits, parking, and an elevator from when the Park City Silver Mine Adventure ran the facility still work.

“It was very popular. In my opinion, they didn't give it a chance. It was really the shareholders, United Parks, [that said] okay we're done with this, and they were done like overnight. I ended up with exhibits on my doorstep you know, some of the important things that I borrowed from places. I think they needed to give it a longer time.”

Cone said she wouldn’t advocate the city open the shaft again as the liability would be too costly.

Elliott said the building is a huge space that would allow people to see how a mining operation worked.

“We stabilize the old mines that are on the ski trails and bike trails and hiking trails on the mountain. There's no place there where we can actually invite people inside to see how a mine worked. And this Butler building was erected in the 1960s. The building itself is historic. It's 60 years old.”

With the city and chamber bureau’s focus on sustainable tourism, both said an event center could be a draw for visitors.

Cone and Elliott said they hope the new Park City council and mayor will consider their proposal and start a conversation about the project.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.