The dream of motor sport racers to reopen the long-closed Langley Speedway in Campbell Valley Regional Park stayed alive Thursday on a narrow 7-6 vote of Metro Vancouver directors.
Metro staff had recommended dropping the idea as an incompatible use of the park, but the environment and parks committee deferred a decision until at least June so Metro directors can tour the park ahead of a final vote.
Several Metro directors think the proposal from the Langley Speedway Historical Society may be viable and deserves further consideration.
But the committee is almost evenly split between supporters of the idea and those who think it’s an incompatible use with Campbell Valley’s status as a nature park, heavily frequented by solitude-seeking walkers and horseback riders.
“It looks sort of half and half right now, I’ll take whatever hope I can get and continue to work towards it,” said speedway society president Murray Jones, who tabled 1,100 letters of support.
The historic speedway closed in 1984 but supporters think the oval could quickly be re-established as an operation that generates money for cash-strapped Metro while acting as multi-purpose venue for other events, including outdoor concerts.
A staff report warned the sensitive ecology and various species at risk could be threatened by a restored speedway and cautioned Metro would have to spend several hundred thousand dollars on a feasibility assessment and public consultation.
Equestrians strongly oppose the idea.
“The Langley Speedway is like an invasive plant that keeps trying to re-establish itself in an unsuitable environment,” said park user Kathy Kolb.
Campbell Valley Park Association chair Jude Grass said park-goers who hold their weddings and other special events there won’t want to hear the roar of race cars shatter the tranquility.
Representatives of the Pacific Riding For Developing Abilities, which provides therapeutic horseback riding for clients with varying disabilities, said race noises could spook the horses and make riding unsafe.
Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele was among the councillors who wanted to reject the proposal now, saying she doesn’t think a park tour will change her mind that racing is a bad fit there.
Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal, the committee chair, opposes the idea and said advocates should look for land outside the regional park system.
“Nothing about this is compatible with a nature park or compatible with the equine focus in that park.”
Others noted racing would be limited to 14 days a year.
Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman, who has a vote on Metro parks issues, said mufflers and other new technologies may address noise concerns.
“Electric racing is just around corner and will eliminate the noise,” he said.
“I really think they can co-exist together in this particular park,” added Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters. “It happened before. I think it can happen again.”