Referred to as the Old Town Site, a series of overgrown roads and concrete foundations are all that remain of the Gander that existed when the town was first established adjacent to what is now the Gander International Airport. For years, mainly during and just after the Second World War, people lived, worked, and went to school in an area slightly north of one of the longest runways in the world.
Over time, the town grew, with homes being built and businesses being established west of the airport, and the original Gander was abandoned.
Many years ago, efforts were made to preserve the area, with signage being erected and roads made passable, if not by car, at least by foot.
But in recent years, according to at least one person who frequents the site, the area has begun to deteriorate.
“The (Town) has received a complaint from a resident regarding the disrepair of the former town site,” said Councillor Dave Blundon, chair of the parks and recreation committee. “The committee agreed that this was the first area that people would see when travelling on the railway bed as they entered Gander, and it was requested that the (Town) provide an evaluation of the work that needs to be completed to make the area more presentable.”
Coun. Blundon said there was a time when everyone lived in that area, and took part in all sorts of community-based activities.
“Down on the army side years ago, it was the former town site, the stadium was down there, the churches were all down there, the people all lived down there, and then it was all in disrepair,” he said. “Sometime, 15 or 20 years ago, there was a lot of money from the (federal government) to go down there. It was part of the (CFB Gander) closure fund, to go down there and do some work down there.”
“It just got dilapidated, and to let it go would be a crime.” - Coun. Dave Blundon
Work was done, Coun. Blundon said. The area was cleaned up, and has become an attraction in recent years for a variety of activities for area residents.
“A nice bit of work was done down there,” he said. “Pictures were taken of where the different buildings were, everything was all done up really, really nice down there, and a lot of people used it.”
In time, however, the area has once again fallen into disrepair, Coun. Blundon said, and it might be time for the Town to consider renewing efforts to preserve the history and protect the area.
“Over time, I suppose, with money being an issue, it was kind of left out of the planning stages, and it just got dilapidated, and to let it go would be a crime,” he said. “It’s still got a lot of good things down there a lot of. People use it down there, walking with their dogs and cats or whatever you have, and a lot of people go down there to have pictures taken, so it could be another area we could look at doing up in the near future, along with all the other areas we’ve got.”
Coun. Blundon said he’s not suggesting council make the project a top priority, or spend a tremendous amount of money on it, but he said it shouldn’t be left as it is.
“I’m not saying we should put a big pile of money in there right up front,” he said. “But maybe over a period of three or four years, we could bring it back to what it was, the way they did it in the beginning.”