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Drag racing open house attracts 200-plus in Campbell River

Proponents still need to provide more information to the City

Vancouver Island Motor Sports Association (VIMSA) hopes its plan to bring a drag strip to Campbell River gathers momentum.

The proposal was enough to bring out more than 200 people to an open house Tuesday afternoon and evening at Georgia Park Elementary.

“It’s a great turnout, and that’s great for the community of Campbell River,” City community development manager Ron Bowles said.

On display were plans that VIMSA has for a site adjacent to the Campbell River Airport, lying to the northeast.

Jim Johnson of VIMSA has been a drag racer and says understands what the sport needs in terms of facilities. The organization, he said, has gotten involved to fill a gap in the motorsports community on Vancouver Island, which lacks a dedicated drag racing track.

“When I found there was no facility on Vancouver Island, no permanent facility, I was somewhat shocked,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Still looking for a place to race

He was involved also with the airport authority and saw potential for land near the airport that was flat and not being used.

The proponents want to build a quarter-mile drag racing track that would provide a venue for regional and local events for Island racing enthusiasts. At the same time, Johnson said the track could be used for other events such as car shows and swap meets or even provide space for driver training. In Edmonton, as an example, he said police use the track for the driver training.

“There is nowhere on the Island with a long, straight stretch for them to be able to go and practise,” he said.

VIMSA estimates the project could be worth $4-5 million in construction. Johnson estimates conservatively the track, once running, would probably generate $4.5 million a year.

“That’s calculations that were done out of facts, out of what people are spending when they go to an event like this,” he said.

In Port Alberni, for a one-weekend event at a temporary site, the revenue was approximately $2.5 million, according to Johnson. He expects there would be three to four similar weekends a year at the local site, along with weekly street car events.

VIMSA has been working on the proposal since 2016, and it still has several steps left. The open house was only one of the processes it must go through with the City of Campbell River. The association has conducted studies looking at the feasibility study of the project and the potential noise impact.

“We’ve required updated noise data,” said Kevin Brooks, the City’s development services manager.

Elsewhere on Vancouver Island, noise from racing has been the subject of local controversy. In the Cowichan Valley, there has been a dispute between residents and a different motorsports organization relating to noise from the track, which is now in the courts.

RELATED STORY: Motorsport Circuit zoning and noise issues going to court this month

For the Campbell River site, VIMSA is currently seeking approval from Nav Canada and will look at potential traffic impact on the area. As well, in light of the proximity to the Willow Creek wetlands, the proponents need to provide more details around environmental impact as well as what efforts VIMSA will take to mitigate any effects.

City staff will now take the input from the open house into account when considering further developments. The proposal will require an amendment to the official community plan (OCP) as well as rezoning.

“That’s where council’s at right now,” Bowles said. “They’re going to the public to say, ‘Is this a good thing for our community?’ If it is good thing for the community, then they’ll consider approving the official community plan and the zoning bylaw.”

VIMSA represents more than 900 racers and fans. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror