BLAST FROM THE PAST: More than 30 years later, tree stands for mine

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The father of Jenny Ridout stands in front of the now roughly 40-foot-tall blue spruce in his backyard in Osburn. As a sophomore at Wallace High School in the spring of 1981, Jenny went on a field trip to Bunker Hill Mine in its last year of operation and ended up purchasing the seedling from the mine’s underground nursery. Photo by GORDON RAGO

By GORDON RAGO

Staff writer

EDITOR’S NOTE: BLAST FROM THE PAST is a weekly article where we turn back the clock and see what was on the front page of our local newspapers years ago. This unchanged article ran on the front page of the July 10, 2013, edition of the Shoshone News-Press. If you remember this story, or other BLAST FROM THE PAST articles, let us know by writing us or commenting online.

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The Bunker Hill Mine was once the largest private employer in the Silver Valley, employing roughly 2,100 people in the Kellogg area, but that came to an end with the closure of the mine in 1981.

It was during that same year that Jenny Ridout, a sophomore at Wallace High School, purchased a blue spruce tree seedling in a Styrofoam cup at the mine’s underground nursery, a seedling that has grown into the still-standing 40-foot tree in Osburn.

Jenny and her classmates visited the Bunker Hill Mine in the spring of 1981 during a field trip just months before the mine would officially shut down. The Mine had about 150 miles of underground workings, sections of which would become abandoned.

Parts of these abandoned underground tunnels were converted into a nursery where tree seedlings were planted to aid the reforestation efforts in the forested areas affected by the mine.

Jenny purchased one of those 4-inch seedlings for $1, bringing home the souvenir to her father who worked for two years at the mine.

The tree was planted in five different locations before it finally found a spot it liked to grow in.

Between 1981 and 1994, the tree grew to about 4 feet. It wasn’t until Jenny’s father, Bob Ridout, moved it to its current location that it spurted to a height of about 40 feet.

The acidic soil in the underground nursery helped the seedlings grow and turn into trees that would be strong enough to survive above ground on the bare hillsides near the mine, according to Jenny’s father.

The reforestation efforts proved to be successful and the Bunker Hill Mine continues to have growing effects on the Silver Valley community.

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