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Base Gagetown: Shaping History, Communities, and Economy

An Historic Military Installation

Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, often referred to as Base Gagetown, is a significant military installation located in New Brunswick, Canada. Established during the Cold War era, this base has played a pivotal role in Canadian defense strategy and has had a profound impact on the surrounding region. In this article, we will delve into the history of CFB Gagetown, its purpose, and the effects it has had on the local communities and economy.

The Cold War Necessity

During the onset of the Cold War in the mid-20th century, Canadian defense planners recognized the need for a suitable training facility for the Canadian Army. Base Gagetown’s primary purpose was to prepare brigade and division-sized armored, infantry, and artillery units for their role in defending Western Europe as part of Canada's commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty. Existing training facilities from the First and Second World Wars were deemed inadequate for the scale of training required, leading to the proposal for Gagetown military base.

Choosing the Location

Selecting the right location for Base Gagetown was crucial. It needed to be relatively near an all-year Atlantic port with appropriate railway connections. The chosen area was a large plateau situated west of the St. John River, spanning approximately 60 km in length and 40 km in width. This region was primarily occupied by farming and forestry communities, which would be significantly affected by the base's establishment.

Land Expropriation

The process of land expropriation began in the early 1950s, surprising local residents who had not been adequately informed about it until the last moment. The surveying was strategically conducted to minimize the impact on historical communities along the St. John River's western bank, such as Gagetown, Hampstead, and Browns Flat. However, it resulted in the elimination of several communities west of the river, marking the most significant single land expropriation in New Brunswick's history.

Transformation of Oromocto

The Base Gagetown’s headquarters were established in the northern part of the base, adjacent to the Village of Oromocto. To accommodate the expected influx of service personnel, Oromocto underwent a significant transformation into a planned town, complete with hidden electrical utilities and typical residential and commercial clusters. This development was similar to larger planned towns like Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Economic Impact Base Gagetown

has had a substantial economic impact on the region. It is the second-largest public sector employer in New Brunswick, following only the provincial government itself. Gagetown military base and its associated units provide employment to thousands of military members and civilians. It contributes hundreds of millions of dollars annually to both the local and provincial economies.

Community Integration

The presence of Base Gagetown has deeply integrated with the local community. Base employees and their families make up a significant portion of Oromocto's population, with the base providing essential services such as water and sewer treatment to the town. Additionally, the training area and facilities are regularly used by units from other Canadian Armed Forces Bases, reserve units, cadets, civilian police forces, and even American military units.

Base Gagetown stands as a testament to Canada's commitment to its defense during the Cold War era. Its establishment had a transformative effect on the surrounding region, reshaping communities, and significantly contributing to the local and provincial economies. Today, Gagetown military base continues to play a vital role in Canada's military readiness and remains a cornerstone of New Brunswick's history and development.