The roar of race car engines may soon return to tranquil Campbell Valley Regional Park if local motor sports enthusiasts can convince Metro Vancouver.
Stock cars haven’t ripped around Langley Speedway since it closed in 1984 but volunteers who want to re-open the defunct track in the south end of the park will make a pitch to Metro’s environment and parks committee Thursday.
Murray Jones, president of the Langley Speedway Historical Society, says there are thousands of fans in the Lower Mainland as well as racers who would flock to the track, since the next nearest one to Vancouver is in distant Agassiz.
“The regional series of NASCAR, whether it’s the northwest tour or some other regional stock car series, would love to come here,” he said. “It’s a dream, but it’s not an impossible dream. We can find ways to do this.”
Jones expects a battle with some nearby residents concerned about noise and traffic, as well as Metro politicians and bureaucrats who may see racing as incompatible with trail walking and nature contemplation.
But he argues the restored racetrack would be a much-needed money-maker for Metro’s regional parks division – the regional district would get a cut of the revenue.
Local businesses and other sponsors are ready to come on board to help rebuild stands and infrastructure.
“Langley Speedway used to accommodate up to 10,000 people and probably could easily again,” Jones said.
And with racing expected only a limited number of days each year, he argues it would be a multi-purpose venue in the park available for other events attracting large crowds.
“You could have concerts, car shows, bicycle races, outdoor theatre, markets – all sorts of different activities.”
At this point, the society just wants Metro to agree to seriously consider the idea and put it out to public consultation.
They have one ally on Metro’s environment and parks committee – vice-chair and Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin.
But she won’t predict the chances of even getting over the starting line, adding horse riders who use the park’s equestrian area are mobilizing to fight the idea.
“Staff are probably opposed to opening it up,” Martin said.
The speedway closed before after noise complaints from residents, she said, but added muffling technology may have improved.
“Campbell Valley Regional Park is a park bigger than Stanley Park and this is one little area of it,” Martin said. “Maybe 15 days of the year it might be a bit noisy.”
Martin noted Metro Vancouver has endorsed a strategy of exploring more business opportunities in its regional parks to raise more money from them.
That’s important because the region has ambitious plans to upgrade and expand its parks but insufficient cash to do it.
Besides deteriorating buildings, Metro planners have a long list of land acquisitions they’d like to make to add 5,500 hectares of new or expanded parkland to the system – at a cost of $1.1 billion.
That would require an estimated $37 million a year over 30 years.
Tremendous investment is also needed to make the proposed Experience the Fraser trail network a reality instead of mainly a plan on paper.
“I think we have to start looking more outside the box on what activities we can do in our parks from the private sector that fit in our parks,” Martin said. “You can’t continue to go to the taxpayer for these kinds of things.”
Martin said the speedway was a “great revenue generator” in the past.
“I see this as an economic opportunity,” she said. “But certainly all the ducks have to be in a row.”
Metro previously rejected ideas like zip lines, paintball or a golf academy in regional parks, but has lately opened the door to business a crack, approving dog obedience training classes, vending machines and event tent rentals. Metro has long generated some money from building rentals and film productions in parks.
Historic photos of Langley Speedway in Campbell Valley Regional Park. Photos and slideshow at top courtesy of Langley Speedway Historical Society.