It was only open for a few years; yet the Park City Silver Mine Adventure, where visitors were lowered into the old Ontario silver mine to get an “authentic” mine experience, left a lasting impression – especially on the children lucky enough to become miners for an hour or two.
Now grown up, those kids come into the Museum asking if this was the place they got to go down in a mine (we aren’t). We get calls too, asking about tours of the mine. ‘Unfortunately,’ we reply, ‘the Silver Mine Adventure has been closed for a long time now.’ In fact, the Park City Silver Mine Adventure was only open between December of 1995 and probably 1998.
Interestingly, when the attraction closed, there was no report or article written. Not from the Park Record, nor any of the Salt Lake area papers. Ask one person who was in Park City at that time; they will say it closed in 1998. Ask another; they will say 1999.
The last article I could find about the Silver Mine Adventure being open was from October 13, 1998: a review from the Daily Universe (BYU’s student paper) about the Halloween programming at the mine. Perhaps no closing article was written because it was expected that the attraction would reopen at some point. The Park City Silver Mine Adventure Inc. last filed as a domestic for-profit corporation in 2003.
All of this is surprising, not only because someone should have noticed and thought to write a story about it, but because the attraction was popular.
But there was a time when the Silver Mine Adventure faced some backlash. In 1997, the attraction decided to unveil their aforementioned Halloween programming, which they billed as the “Tunnel of Terror.” The description of the Tunnel of Terror included that “various dead and decaying miners and their ravenous rat friends will greet our guests.”
Some locals and mining veterans were not very happy. The Ontario, where the Silver Mine Adventure resided, is part of the worst mining disaster in Park City’s history. An explosion at the adjoining Daly West Mine led to a gas leak that killed nine men in the Ontario shaft.
Fred Lupo, then president of District 22 of the United Mine Workers of America (which includes Utah), told the Deseret News “It’s very offensive, very distasteful to families who have lost people.” He also explained that sites of major mining disasters are usually treated as sacred; some even become memorials.
Randy Sella, the general manager of the Silver Mine Adventure, disagreed saying, “There’s no way it is in any way demeaning or an attempt to disrespect miners or their families.” He added that the programming stemmed from the same historical information as the regular tours offered during the rest of the year. The Park Record reported that the programming was meant to commemorate those who had died, but did not cover the controversy.
Perhaps the Tunnel of Terror spelled the beginning of the end for the Park City Silver Mine Adventure, with the spirits of the men who died not happy about an attraction in their final resting place.