A look at the fight to keep land around Area 51 for public use. Reporter Tom Warden goes to Freedom Ridge, 120 miles north of Las Vegas and talks to Area 51 researcher Glenn Campbell about the fight with the federal government over this land. The feds argue they need the land for extra security around the secret Air Force Base. This story aired on KLAS TV, Las Vegas in 1994. First of 2 parts.

Freedom Ridge lies at the end of a long lonely desert dirt road about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. From the ridge you can get a clear view of the super-secret Air Force Base known as Area 51, but to get up there, you need a guide. Glenn Campbell lives in nearby Rachel, Nevada. He communes by computer with hundreds of people all over the world. And he wrote the book on scanning the place some have called Dreamland. Many people wind up making the trip to Freedom Ridge. They come here to see the mysterious outpost for themselves.

“Groom Lake has become a phenomenon. I mean, nothing attracts attention more than a secret base. Everybody loves a secret base,” says Campbell.

Some visitors are looking for UFOs. Many claim the military is testing alien technology in Area 51. So many people have claimed flying saucer sightings,  it’s called America’s Alien Highway. Other watchers hope to see an advanced new hypersonic plane they call Aurora, a plane the government says is a pipe dream.

Glenn Campbell leads expeditions to Freedom Ridge, where views of Area 51 and the Groom Lake base draw interest from UFO buffs and aviation fans. (KLAS-TV)

But Glenn Campbell is here for a different reason, “I’m interested in government secrecy and I don’t take any stand as to what’s out there.”

Leading the four-wheel drive trek up to the top of Freedom Ridge, Glenn stops to point out a hidden magnetic sensor. It’s part of a sophisticated network of high-tech trip wires. “This item is alerting the Air Force that somebody is approaching the zone. It’s a good four miles from the border, however, this is public land.”

Warden: “Is this legal?”

Campbell: “This is not legal.”

Our approach wasn’t very stealthy anyway. Heavily armed security guards deployed along the base boundary watched us every step of the way. The border itself is marked by orange poles topped with metal lobes. Legally, you could be shot for simply crossing this line. At the top of the ridge, we get a panoramic view of Groom Dry Lake, home of the longest runway on Earth. You could see huge hangars, support buildings and tank farms. This view is the reason the Air Force wants to take possession of Freedom Ridge and some other high ground. It’s also the reason these folks want to stop the land grab and keep Freedom Ridge in public hands. “We don’t know how realistic that is. The government, the military has a lot of might, especially in Nevada,” Campbell said.

Expeditions to Freedom Ridge are closely watched. (KLAS-TV)

At the top we joined more than a dozen watchers. Telescopes, binoculars and scanners are the tools of this trade.

“We have the UFO buffs,” Campbell said. “We have the aviation buffs who are looking for the Aurora spy plane. We have the radio monitors who want to tap into their frequencies and a lot other different groups.”

While many people debate what is or what is not going on at the Groom Lake Base, the question is a moot point for the military. As far as they’re concerned, the base doesn’t officially exist.

“They’re under a great deal of pressure,” Campbell said. “There’s no greater pressure than the power of the press and the power of the people when they get riled up. The military is conducting its business in the same old Cold War way and it has to change,” Campbell said.

See Part 2: Area 51 ‘land grab’ has residents, government at odds — Part 2