The dream of car racing fans to reopen the long-closed Langley Speedway in Campbell Valley Regional Park will at least get to the starting line.
Metro Vancouver’s environment and parks committee voted to refer the controversial proposal to staff to report back on feasibility and what process might be used if Metro’s board decides to advance it to public consultation.
The idea is expected to face heavy opposition from horse riders who frequent the park, as well as other users and residential neighbours.
Four Metro directors voted against the motion, citing concerns racing wouldn’t be compatible with quiet nature strolls and equestrian riding.
Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele said noise from the track would be a big issue, adding she’s also concerned the Langley Speedway Historical Society hasn’t adequately discussed its proposal with neighbours or other park users.
But the majority agreed Metro should not dismiss out of hand the idea of resurrecting the speedway, which has been closed since 1984.
“In this economy, we have to look at what the people want to do,” said Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman, adding track proponents have taken a respectful approach and not tried to “stack the deck” with support.
Responding to concerns it’s a heavily polluting sport, Banman said auto racing technology is changing and heading toward a future of electric race cars.
He also noted equestrian sports aren’t emission free, because horse riders typically burn fuel trucking their animals to and from Campbell Valley park.
“I think there are lots of ways to resolve the problems facing this,” Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walsh said.
Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin noted Metro wants to explore business partnerships to raise more money to support regional parks, particularly the acquisition of more parkland.
“In Stanley Park you have the aquarium, which houses whales in captivity. What’s that doing to the environment?” Martin asked. “You have the miniature train, you have Malkin Bowl and they’re all generating revenue.”
She said most trails in Campbell Valley go nowhere near the racetrack area, which occupies less than two per cent of the park’s 1,322 acres.
Speedway society president Murray Jones said he’s pleased Metro will at least consider the idea.
He said the the racing surface is still usable and a demonstration race could be held there almost immediately, using basic fencing and portable concessions, while more work would be needed to set up proper grandstands.
Jones said Metro got 10 per cent of all speedway revenues when it was open and a similar revenue-sharing agreement in the future could help fund regional parks.
He envisions 10 to 14 race days a year, while concerts, car shows and other outdoor events could use the venue at other times.
Jones said the existing 1,000 parking stalls at the track would be mainly for VIPs and the disabled, while most other race-goers would be expected to walk, bike or take a shuttle.
Metro directors predict there will be strong opinions for and against reopening the track, particularly from motor sport fans and horse owners, if the proposal makes it to public consultations.
“You’ve got horsepower on both sides of this issue,” Langley Township Coun. Bob Long said.