Sudbury

Austin Airways commemorated with new plaque, garden at Ramsey Lake

A chapter of Sudbury's aviation history is being commemorated with a new plaque and garden at the former site of the Austin Airways base in Bell Park on the shore of Ramsey Lake.

Airline operated from the 1930s until the 1990s, flying bush planes all over northern Ontario

A photo of a Beaver CF-JKT flying above the Inco smelters in Copper Cliff is featured on a new plaque in Bell Park commemorating Austin Airways and Sudbury's aviation history. (CBC)

A chapter of Sudbury's aviation history is being commemorated with a new plaque and garden at the former site of the Austin Airways base in Bell Park on the shore of Ramsey Lake.

Austin Airways, considered to be one of Canada's longest continuously-operated passenger airlines, started flying bush planes in northern Ontario in the 1930s, and continued flying under various names and owners until the early 1990s.

The commemorative plaque telling the story of Austin Airways has already been installed at the site, which used to be home to a residential building up until 2011. The city said it expects to plant the garden there by the summer.

They were pioneers in the bush plane flying era. They opened up a lot of the north, a lot of the mining camps and finds that we all take for granted.- Dan Melanson, aviation expert

When Austin Airways flights stopped in the early '90s, the air base property and building were sold privately. The city of Sudbury eventually purchased the land so it could be included in Bell Park. It was then that it was decided the old building would be demolished.

Kris Longston, a senior planner with the city, said Sudbury had planned to include a nod to the aviation heritage when it acquired the property.

No plans to relocate existing monuments

"It was determined that the city would, as part of developing that site, pay respect to the fact that it was an important area in the city for bush plane aviation," he said.

The city of Sudbury says it plans to plan a garden at the former Austin Airways base in Bell Park next to Ramsey Lake by the summer. (Megan Thomas/CBC)
Sudbury aviation expert Dan Melanson, who has been pushing to preserve the history of the site since the building was still standing, said he is "really pleased" with the city's efforts.

"I think it's a wonderful gesture on the part of the city to recognize its past. I mean, they were pioneers in the bush plane flying era. They opened up a lot of the north, a lot of the mining camps and finds that we all take for granted," he said in an interview with CBC News.

There are already a number of plaques and monuments installed in Bell Park to memorialize the city's aviation past, including a heritage plaque by Science North and a sculpture to honour famous northern Ontario bush pilot Rusty Blakey.

Melanson said there are currently no plans for the city to relocate the existing monuments.

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