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Beauty and the beast: Ruins in the wilderness

A simple hike through the Flour Mill area of town turned into an interesting journey through Sudbury’s past when concrete pads and old buildings kept turning up in the middle of nowhere.
A walk through trails and green space in the Flour Area led to constrasting images of beautiful scenery interspersed with illegal dumping, pollutants and old buildings left to crumble to the ground.

A simple hike through the Flour Mill area of town turned into an interesting journey through Sudbury’s past when concrete pads and old buildings kept turning up in the middle of nowhere.

The original intent of the hike was to follow the Rotary Trail from the Flour Mill to Adanac Ski Hill and back. Of course it’s always wise to get directions before heading out on any trip.

view more photosThe first misstep was to assume the Junction Creek trail connects with the Rotary Trail.

After following it, and then another path that runs parallel to Notre Dame, my friend and I were faced with the option of picking from a series of smaller trails.

The path we chose, the wrong one we found out, eventually came out at a railroad track. We walked down the tracks a couple of feet hoping to see signs of the Rotary Trail when we stumbled across a very large concrete pad adjacent to the tracks.

It was in the middle of bush and wetlands and there weren’t any roads in sight, which begged the question. “What was here before that required poured concrete?”

A little way more into the bush, there was the broken shell of what used to be a building of some kind.

The whole area was full of broken glass and other discarded objects, but strangely enough, someone had built or brought in a roughly constructed bench that sat across the wall inside this destroyed building.

We explored for a bit before setting off in a eastward direction down the tracks with the hope of connecting with the Rotary Trail.

It wasn’t very long before we came across a little pond beside the tracks, which was home to families of Canadian geese and ducks, along with a blue heron that gracefully flew away as we approached.

It was a pretty little setting until we noticed the abandoned railway ties sitting beside the pond.

An oily blue wash of pollutants floated along the top of the water near the area where the ties sat.

Just past the pond, we realized we were at a crossroads – literally. The railroad tracks here formed a junction where the eastward route linked up with the north to south one.

We debated about turning back, but decided to continue since the tracks seemed to lead toward New Sudbury and Adanac Ski Hill.

We finally caught a glimpse of the path we were looking for but couldn’t get to it because swampy wetland filled the area between the trail and the tracks.

Onwards we went until we finally found a path behind Beatrice Cres. that led us to Adanac Ski Hill. Once there, it was easy to find the Rotary Trail, which was a delightful change of scenery from the rough-and-tumble tracks we had been following.

Hikers in this area can follow along the base of the mountain side or follow a stairway up and travel along the mountain top. The trail was well maintained and bicyclists, joggers, and fellow walkers enjoyed the view of the mountains on one side and wetlands on the other. There were also lots of wild raspberry bushes to sample as you made your way along the trail.

But then, about 30 minutes later, and just before where the trail exits on to Mountain St., we made another discovery.
A glimpse down a small offshoot trail, not managed part of the Rotary Trail, led us to another concrete construction of some sort. This time it was about the size and shape of an outdoor rink and again smack-dab in the middle of nowhere.

Someone has also been using the area around this concrete “thing” as an illegal dumping ground. There were broken pieces of concrete barriers, bricks and roofing shingles piled all around.

However, it wasn’t until we turned around that we noticed the most startling sight of the day. There was a large concrete building just sitting there. It has to be at least two stories high with the only marks on it being a graffiti tag along the top.

We followed the little trail leading up to the building, which had a metal grill blocking the entrance at the front and back of it. Part of the grill had been bent back to allow entry, and it obviously had been serving as a shelter for homeless people.

Clothing, blankets, pill bottles and empty mouthwash containers littered the floors and the walls were covered end-to-end with colourful graffiti. The other side of the room had been used as a makeshift bathroom with toilet paper, feces and a strong smell of urine filled the air.

We exited the building and made our way up to the top of the hill it was nestled against. Another strange sight greeted us with four-foot high walls framing the shape of the building below, creating a courtyard effect. Just down from there was another path leading to a large campfire area that sat in a little gully.

Curious to find out what these buildings and concrete areas were, I spoke to a couple of Sudbury history buffs and was pointed in the direction of Dale Wilson, a retired teacher, author and railroad historian.

Wilson believes the concrete wastelands we came across were part of a “series of former industries” once served by CN, CPR and Algoma Eastern Railway.

“The massive one (now being used as a shelter) was part of a cement storage and unloading operation – sort of a tiny version of what the Fielding companies have in view south of Lorne St. as you approach Copper Cliff,” said Wilson in an email.

Mystery solved but still an interesting find given the location and history. Do you have any stories of interesting buildings, structures or other curious sights you’ve discovered while exploring Greater Sudbury? If so, email me at or phone 673-5667.

NEXT: Why weren’t these buildings torn down and who is responsible for maintaining and cleaning up the areas in and around them?

1.  This shell of an old building was located beside the railroad tracks; 2. by Notre Dame Ave.

3.  The Rotary Trail follows along the base of the mountain or you can climb the stairway and follow the elevated route.

4. to 6. A smaller path off the Rotary Trail led to the discovery of this abandoned cement storage building, which is now being used as a squatters den.

7. Another former railway building gone to waste.

8. Illegal dumping has become a problem in this concrete wasteland.