A relic of the Cold War, an old Nike missile radar and tracking site in western Miami-Dade County, has been demolished.
Bulldozers, cranes and dump trucks recently knocked down and carted away some of the remaining structures that once made up the Integrated Fire Control (IFC) site along Krome Avenue just south of Tamiami Trail.
Built in response to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when U.S. spy planes discovered Soviet nuclear missiles on the island, the site was one of several designed to protect Miami against Soviet or Cuban attack. It was formally known as HM-95, Battery D.
It was part of an anti-aircraft base that also included launch pads for Nike and Hercules missiles. The launch pads were where the Krome detention center is now located, near the intersection of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail.
The demolished IFC facility is just a few yards from the detention center where federal immigration authorities house hundreds of foreign detainees. Both sites are federal properties, with immigration officials in charge of overseeing the old IFC site.
The now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service opened the detention center on the launch pad site in 1980 partly to house Mariel boatlift Cuban refugees.
The IFC site remained open as an intelligence facility but was finally decommissioned in the mid-1980s. Since then, the structures that once housed military personnel, offices and equipment, were abandoned. The equipment included radar and tracking devices to detect enemy aircraft or missiles aimed at Miami.
Had an enemy attack been detected, IFC personnel, along with personnel at other similar sites to the north, west and south, would have fired antiaircraft missiles, some of which reportedly had been nuclear-tipped.
Missiles were never fired to defend Miami from an enemy attack. Soldiers who were based at some of the sites recalled that occasionally Soviet military aircraft based in Cuba flew near U.S. defense perimeters.
Over the years, the structures deteriorated and became a playground for graffiti artists and paintball teams. The structures were completely covered in multicolored graffiti ranging from a giant pink flower on the side of an old guard house to the words “gold” or “sold” as well as other undecipherable symbols.
Workers and equipment arrived at the site to begin demolishing the structures a few weeks ago. They were nearly finished last week.
Recent visitors said in various Web postings that the site was being demolished to allow transport workers to widen Krome Avenue. Workers have begun widening the road in that area, but the construction is taking place on the east side of Krome Avenue, not the west side where the old IFC site is located.
Demolition workers at the site said the destruction of the IFC’s remaining structures had nothing to do with road widening.
A federal official familiar with the issue said the site’s old structures were demolished because they had become “a hazard.”
It’s unclear whether immigration authorities will build something there in the future. For now, however, the old IFC site is history. The best preserved Nike-Hercules base in South Florida is located within the Everglades National Park.
The Everglades Nike-Hercules Missile Site, known as HM-69, is nearly intact. It has been open to public tours guided by park rangers.
Everglades National Park officials generally reopen the site on Veterans Day and is then available for tours through the winter.
This winter the park plans to expand public access to the Nike site.
“Our goal this year is to open the site from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one of two days per week, so that the public can enjoy the site at their own leisure,” said Shawn Bawden, volunteer coordinator at Everglades National Park. “This would be in addition to our daily ranger-guided walk.”
But in order to make this goal reality, Bawden said, the park needs volunteers.