Mission Raceway Park’s manager said he hasn’t received “a single word” from the B.C. Health Authorities in the 44 days since he sent a formal proposal asking to restart operations on March 15.
This is despite a petition with nearly 8,000 signatures, a COVID-19 safety plan created by an outside consultant and sending numerous follow up emails.
“We’re not even being given the time a day,” said Kevin Ness, manager of the park. “We have absolutely no clue if our proposal is good, not good, allowed, not allowed, safe – they won’t contact us, they won’t talk to us.”
Ness says the only communication he’s received is an automated confirmation email, which states that due to heavy volume, it may take three to four weeks to get a response.
Their proposal asks for a re-evaluation of the events and gatherings restrictions on their operations, which limits Mission Raceway Park to having 10 people. Ness said their COVID-19 safety plan went “overboard,” considering the property is 86 acres and they’re requesting permission to have 500 people on the property.
Mission Raceway Park is a racing circuit with an attached campground with large camp lots for RVs, trailers and vehicles. Prior to COVID-19, Ness said major events at the park would attract up to 5,000 people if you include the spectators.
He said they considered sending a proposal last summer, when restrictions on events and gatherings were limited to 50 people, but decided against it as there was limited time left in the season, and they expected the rules would ease by the next. Instead, those rules have gotten stricter.
“We have probably one of the best activities possible in a pandemic, you’re outside, you do your own thing in your own car, you have your own pit space, which is more than large enough for people to social distance,” Ness said, questioning why the Vancouver Zoo, ski hills and golf courses are allowed exemptions.
“Because we put on events, and people gather at a specific time for certain things, we fall under the events and gathering category,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s absolutely ridiculous … they can have 2,600 people at the Vancouver Zoo, but the excuse is that’s not an event.”
Ness said that not being able to operate for another season will “take a pretty heavy effect on us.”
The petition was created by Alan Omond, a long-time drag racer who frequents the park. He sent a letter to Minister of Health Adrian Dix on March 8, encouraging the province to evaluate and respond to the raceway’s proposal. He hasn’t received a response.
“I believe that Mission Raceway Park has fallen between the cracks in our Provincial Pandemic Response,” Omond said in the letter. “(They have) been waiting for a response for quite awhile. Time is of the essence when a limited race season is upon us.”
He states there are many misconceptions about drag racing, that the park assists Mission’s local economy, and has a high level of organization, with staff being better prepared to enforce COVID-19 safety rules than provincial and RV parks.
In an email response, the Ministry of Health described the easing of restrictions as a “slight turning of the dial” and “not a flip of the switch.” Select restrictions may ease in the weeks and months ahead as the weather warms and vaccines roll out, but the current health orders will remain in place for now, according to the ministry.
“The public health measures that closed and put restrictions in businesses, including racetracks, have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the ministry said. “All decisions related to the easing of restrictions will be based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and related risk of transmission, among other factors.”
Questions related to why Mission Raceway Park has not received a response were left unanswered.