Memories of Beausejour
Written by Ren L’Ecuyer
The decision to close Canadian Forces Station Beausejour, a Pinetree Line radar station, took place in the mid 1980s as part of the modernization of Air Defence in Canada. CFS Beausejour was closed on 31 July 1986 and the military presence which had been at this location since 1951 came to an end after 35 years at this location.
To be fair – it should be mentioned that Beausejour was the second, of what would ultimately result in 24 Pinetree Line long range radar stations, to be closed down between 1986 and 1991.
Many communities, coast to coast, were having to answer the question "what happens now?" as the radar stations continued to close down one after another. Unlike many communities it appeared that the complex at Beausejour would not be razed to the ground. The provincial government of Manitoba decided to convert this radar station into what would become the "Milner Ridge Correctional Centre" (MRCC).
It took about a year or so to complete the necessary renovations to convert the original radar station into a Correctional Centre. Groups of inmates numbering 12 to 15 were brought in on a daily basis from Bannock Point, which was another Provincial jail in the nearby area, and is now closed, to work during the daylight hours. Opening day for the existing MRCC was on 6 September 1988. On the off chance that you may be wondering, the base wasn’t really used for anything between the time that the military departed and the time that the Correctional Centre opened, almost two years after the departure of the military. The only thing that seemingly took place were the renovations required to prepare the complex for occupation and existence as a Correctional Centre.
Those of us who once served at the radar station are probably wondering what remains from the days when the American Air Force manned this complex between 1951 and 1962, or for that matter, when the Canadian Air Force manned the complex between 1962 and 1986. You can not simply forget 35 years of military operation overnight.
Well, as far as Operations is concerned, the radar equipment was removed when the military departed. The radomes are gone, but the towers that once held these radomes in position are still in place. The buildings at the GATR site still remain, and are currently being used for storage.
At the domestic site, there is no additional fencing – just what was there when the military was operating the complex. However, there is a fence and barbed wire around what used to be the old Officers and CO’s quarters. This area now serves as a "juvenile unit". It was a barracks that was split in half originally with half of it serving as the CO's quarters and half serving as the officers barracks.
There were only 8 houses, one DND trailer park and two other trailer parks, called the "Upper" and the "Lower" trailer parks which were used by military personnel who had their own trailers. Both trailer parks are presently void of trailers except for one DND trailer which is located in the Lower trailer court. The Upper Trailer court is used as a garden and it has a fence around it – mainly to keep the deer out of the garden area.
There is a weight room and a hobby craft room which are operated in what we knew as the Canex building. A pool room is situated in what used to be the Snack Bar. There is a library which takes up about a quarter of what was once the Curling Rink. The bowling alley is still operational, but it is sees limited use – certainly not to the extent that once existed during the days of the radar station. The old skating rink is also used from time to time.
The ball field along with the basketball and volleyball court are used during the summer months and there are recognized walking and running areas around the roadway starting at what used to be the Airmen's barracks up past the Fire Hall.
While it may be difficult to envision, the buildings are well maintained and the roadways are in good condition. Government Services does all that with the help of a few inmates.
Pinetree Line web site note: It is hoped that this update will prove to be of interest to military personnel who once served at Beausejour when it functioned as a Pinetree Line radar station.