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'Can Pile' backers prepare for move

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

How many people does it take to shrink-wrap and move a 50-foot tower of empty oil cans?

Casselton, N.D., is about to find out.

In its nearly 75 years of existence, the Can Pile has only moved once, and that was just a few hundred feet about 35 years ago.

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On Thursday, residents will attempt to move it again - this time a few blocks.

Supporters of the Can Pile worked out an agreement to move the landmark from Loegering Manufacturing's property near Interstate 94 to land near the city's south water tower. Weather permitting, the Can Pile move begins at 1 p.m. Thursday.

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"I'm sure there will be a lot of people that want to watch it. It's quite a historical move," said Ken Habiger, a former president of the Casselton Historical Society and one who wants to preserve the tower.

Deemed by some as history and by others as garbage, the Can Pile is filled with countless empty oil cans held together by chicken wire. A former service station owner created the pile in the 1930s.

Loegering Manufacturing president Kurt Bollman notified Habiger and Tourism Committee President Greg Kempel earlier this year that the company wanted to remove the Can Pile from its property.

He gave a May 29 deadline for residents to remove the pile if they wanted to preserve it or the pile would be demolished.

On Friday, a contract signed by Bollman, Kempel and the Casselton Park Board was finalized. City Auditor Brandy Pyle said the Can Pile will move to city property near the water tower.

If the structure is too large for the property, an adjoining landowner has agreed to allow use of land for the pile, she said.

If weather conditions don't allow for a Thursday move, an extension to June 12 is allowed in the contract.

So how does a city move a 50-foot tower of cans?

Al Runck, who lives 10 miles south of Casselton and is in charge of the move, outlined the game plan:

The first step is to straighten the Can Pile, he said. Workers will then wrap the structure with heavy-duty shrink-wrap.

A big, heavy sheet of metal will be slid underneath the pile and welded to the structure. There will also be cable from the top down to stabilize the structure, Runck said.

Cranes will be on hand to lift the pile and put it on a trailer. That is, if the wind is less than 20 mph.

"It's going to be interesting. Not many people move can piles," Runck said. "It's quite a deal."

The plan is to keep the Can Pile in its new location only temporarily, Habiger said. Supporters are still looking for a permanent site where they can create a display.

Kempel estimates a $50,000 price tag for moving, finding land and creating a display site. Supporters are seeking donations to help with costs.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560

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