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Charleson Signs Fit to a ‘T’

The Magic 8-ball says ‘all signs point to Yes,’ the spelling of Charleson on Atikokan’s new recreational area signs is entirely correct. There is no ‘t’ in Charleson, unless you’re travelling to Charleston, South Carolina or learning the classic dance named after that city.

The Charleson Recreation Area (CRA) takes its name from the original Canadian Charleson Iron Mine (a subsidiary of Charleson Iron Mining Co. of Minnesota), which operated sporadically here from 1958-64 in the region of what is now the hub of the CRA, the Sno-Ho chalet.  The Charleson iron ore body consisted of an 80’deep deposit of small fragments of typical Steep Rock hematite mixed with gravel, and the mining operation involved washing, screening and jigging the ore into a high-grade concentrate.

Actual construction on the site started on July 16, 1957, and its concentrator plant housed 11 separating units, a garage and an office. There were five Euclids and dumps and two scrapers in operation, and over the years the mine employed between 75-90 workers. In 1958, general supervisor John Maki expected the open pit operation to produce for up to 30 years. The first shipments went out by rail to the Lakehead that year.

The operation closed in the fall of 1960 (the same year the garage was gutted by fire) and remained closed until it was taken over in 1961 by Oglebay Norton Co. of Cleveland, which previously had a one-third interest in the company. They resumed operations in early 1962 with 88 employees (77 hourly-rated and 11 staff), and operated until September of that year, shipping a total of 120,000 tons. Charleson closed permanently in 1964, its best production year with 190,000 tons. In the company’s five years of operation, production totalled 600-700,000 tons.

Charleson Rises Like a Phoenix

The CRA committee formed in 2005 in an effort to consolidate the various users of the Charleson area, including snowmobilers, motocrossers, 4-wheelers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, Ride for Sight, anglers, hikers, picnickers, snowshoers, skiers, etc.

The goal of the group was to develop the area into a multi-use recreation area able to host events for user groups and enhance both the quality of life of residents and the tourism potential of the town. The attractive new signs direct visitors through the downtown retail section, which CRA committee chair Brian Jackson said was a deliberate effort to help boost the local economy. This week the committee will be interviewing applicants to take the CRA to the next stage of development.
“We’re in the process of hiring an intern to market and promote the area, as well as help develop further expansion of the facilities,” said Jackson. “[The Province], Council and the township have been really supportive. When we get this intern on, we’ll be ready to move to the next step.”

The group is hoping to expand the existing chalet facility to include washrooms, showers, a stage, a large outdoor shelter, camping facilities and parking. The CRA welcomes suggestions or partners to help with the projects.

“We’re always open to new groups and new ideas,” said Jackson.

Committee members include Gord Martin, Twila Smitsnuk, Kim Cross (Sno Ho), Katrina Anderson (Atikokan Motocross Club), Cathy Barnard (4×4 Club), Jackson (Steep Rock Mountain Bikers), Sandy McBride, Ange Bradshaw (Horse Club), Brian Gouliquer (Ride for Sight) and Nicole Halasz (Bow to Stern Assoc).

– Jacqueline Boileau; Atikokan Progress