Abandoned military building©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
The Pinetree Line was conceived during the Cold War when fears of a Soviet air attack against North America were running high. During the late 1940s, U.S. and Canadian defence chiefs put their heads together and developed joint plans which included a series of 33 prime radar stations stretching from coast to coast across Canada. Their main purpose was to detect and identify unknown aircraft and then direct interceptor aircraft to their targets.
Construction of No. 209 RCAF Falconbridge began in late 1950. The station, located 14 miles north of the nickel centre of Sudbury, was officially opened in August 1952. Shortly after opening it became known simply as RCAF Falconbridge.
Falconbridge, like many other similar facilities was a fully self-contained community. In addition to shared quarters, the station included 101 homes (PMQs), water and sewage facilities, a school, library, church, an infirmary, and a slew of recreational facilities including a bowling alley, recreational hall, gymnasium, sauna and children's wading pool. A post office operated from 1955 to 1960.
In the mid 1960s, after scanning became computerized, Falconbridge was re-designated as a radar scanning station. Following unification of the Canadian Armed Forces, Falconbridge was re-designated again, this time as CFS (Canadian Forces Station) Falconbridge. During the 1970s it was used as a training facility, specializing in basic and advanced instruction of Air Defence Technicians' courses. It also assumed additional radar scanning duties following the closure of CFS Foymount in 1974.
On November 11th, 1975 CFS Falconbridge achieved a fame of different sorts when a group of four bright lights, alternately hovering and darting around at high speed, was sighted about 15 miles southwest of the radar site. The objects were first observed around 3:00 a.m. and tracked on height-finding radar for approximately six hours. According to the radar reports, they shot up from 26,000 feet to 45,000 feet, stopped, and then made a rapid ascent up to 72,000 feet.
Visual descriptions of the objects varied. In one report they were described as appearing like brilliant stars when viewed from the ground but very different when viewed through binoculars. Another referred to them as 100-foot diameter spheres that appeared to have craters around the outside. Yet a third described one of the objects as resembling a gem with coloured lights around it. According to observers at the base, they were circular, well lighted with two black spots in the centre.
Once the reports started rolling in, NORAD became nervous. The reports from observers at the Falconbridge station coincided with similar reports from other 'reliable' witnesses, which included seven Ontario Provincial Police officers, who were engaged in a hot pursuit of the objects. The U.S. Air Force immediately scrambled two NORAD F-106 aircraft to the scene. The F-106s were were later joined by Air Guard helicopters and SAC helicopters, but none was ever able to make a positive identification.
The military later released two reports purporting to offer explanations of the unusual event. One attributed the lights to the planet Jupiter, which was said to be unusually bright that particular morning. Another sited "atmospheric phenomena." Neither of the military reports made any mention of at least seven similar incidents of UFO activity reported over NORAD bases in the preceding two weeks. Whatever happened that night over the Falconbridge skies may never be known, but ufologists give little credence to the military's standard party line.
As a result of technological changes, Falconbridge was downsized and closed in November 1986. It was appraised and tendered for sale to the highest bidder. Appraisals based on rental income of the PMQs alone came in at between $1.3 and $1.6 million. The extensive sports and recreational facilities were not included in the appraisal.
Promotional literature described the base as having a library, recreational building with snack bar, theatre, bowling alley, sauna, medical building, school, church, garage, office building, 97 family units, pump station, driving range, soccer field, two ball parks, ski tow and downhill ski area and a football field. In effect, a complete town, built with public money, was being offered for sale.
Controversy followed when General Leaseholds, a publicly traded company, eventually won the bid for a paltry $140,000. The day they took possession they flipped it to a numbered company who eventually sold it to Henry Shepherd, a local trailer camp owner, for $190,000. Shepherd's earlier bid of $210,000 had been rejected. Shepherd sold the base in 1988 for well over a million.
The base still exists and has been renamed Valley View Developments. Although most of the homes have been renovated and rented, the remainder of the facility sits crumbling. The radomes were demolished and the sports field, park and playground are weedy and overgrown. Many of the buildings still stand - shabby and vacant - slowly deteriorating year by year.
Sadly, as a result of sloppiness and neglect, the opportunity to turn the lucrative remains of CFS Falconbridge into a viable, self-sustaining community appears to have been completely lost.