Empire Mine tour facility to be built | TheUnion.com

Empire Mine tour facility to be built

While Gov. Gray Davis’ budget proposal is pretty gloomy, one ray of light shines on western Nevada County.

The budget allocates $2.2 million in bond money for the construction of an underground touring facility at Empire Mine State Historic Park.

This long-anticipated project would involve blasting and digging a 750-foot-long “adit,” or horizontal passageway, leading to the mine’s main shaft. An electric tram would be installed inside the adit. Tourists would ride the tram past volunteers who would display mining equipment from different eras of the mine’s history.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Park Superintendent Ray Patton.

Funding for the project was set aside as a line item in Proposition 12, the $2 billion parks bond that California voters approved in March 2000.

“It finally came around to us,” Patton said of the money.

He expects construction bids to go out this summer. Construction could start in late summer or the fall, Patton said.

Unfortunately, Empire Mine won’t get all the money it hoped to from the state Parks and Recreation Department to operate the underground facility.

“We have no money for (additional) staff,” Patton said.

The park had hoped to offer the underground tour to the public seven days a week, 12 to 14 tours a day.

But barring any new funding source, the tours would be available “at a very limited level,” he said. Patton doesn’t think volunteers would be able to offer the tours seven days a week.

The project should boost tourism, said MaryAnn Mueller, president of the Grass Valley/Nevada County Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m glad to see it finally progress,” said Mueller who called Empire Mine “a major attraction in our community.”

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