Metro Vancouver directors have rejected a proposal to let stock cars race once again at a long-closed speedway in Campbell Valley Regional Park.
Metro’s environment and parks committee voted 8-3 Thursday to halt further study of the idea after passionate presentations from defenders of the park.
Most committee members agreed racing would be an incompatible use at odds with the enjoyment of tranquil nature and the use of the area by horse riders.
Most also said the proposal faced multiple high hurdles, including potential reviews over fishery or environmental risks and needed approval from the Agricultural Land Commission.
“From my perspective, the challenges are just too great,” said Langley Township Coun. Bob Long.
Richmond Coun. Harold Steves said it would inappropriately alter the long-standing theme of nature and equestrian use at Campbell Valley.
The society proposed racing at a restored speedway on a maximum of 14 days a year, with the facility acting as a multi-purpose venue for concerts and other events as well – potentially becoming a money maker for the Metro parks department.
“People say it will be the ruination of the park,” said Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin, one of three directors who wanted more study on the racing option. “It’s two per cent of the park, one per cent of the time.”
Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman and North Vancouver District Coun. Mike Little also voted against the motion to reject the speedway.
The debate pitted two different sets of horsepower fans against each other – equestrians and car racers.
It also left Metro directors in an uncomfortable position – many wanted to explore broader uses of parks and the potential revenue it could bring, but were reluctant to alienate regular park-goers and some found exhaust-belching motor sports an inherent conflict with regional environmental goals.
Langley Speedway Historical Society members haven’t given up all hope.
“We’re not going to flog a dead horse,” Dan Olson said. “However, in politics things can change and they can change suddenly. We will be looking for responsible opportunities. I still don’t rule out, in spite of what happened here today, the return of racing one day to Campbell Valley Regional Park.”
Several directors said there’s clearly demand for a racing venue in Metro Vancouver and were hopeful a more suitable site might be found.
The proponents maintain they have considerable support and that NASCAR or a similar racing style would do well in Metro Vancouver.
A staff report said Campbell Valley Regional Park contains sensitive ecosystems that are home to various threatened species.
That led Banman to question whether the park ought to be closed to all visitors in the name of habitat protection.
Delegations to the committee all opposed restoring the track, which last hosted races in 1984.
“Shame on you for even thinking of putting racing in the park,” said Carla Robin of the Langley Horse and Farm Federation.
Also opposed was Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities, a neighbouring non-profit that uses therapy horses to assist mainly autistic clients.
Christine Riek said noisy motor sports are unacceptable in Metro Vancouver parks and pointed to the location of the next nearest Lower Mainland racetrack.
“Agassiz Speedway is located near a cemetery, a rifle range, industrial land, a mountainside and a prison.”
The decision must still be ratified at the next full Metro board meeting.
The old speedway in its heyday. Races ended in 1984 after the Greater Vancouver Regional District opted not to extend the lease.