VERNON – A local politician is spurring the Regional District of North Okanagan to seek provincial funding for Vernon’s Kin Race Track, the oldest of its kind in all of Canada.
The fate of the 120-year-old race track is, at present, in limbo. The City of Vernon and the RDNO have expressed interest in redeveloping the site into a complex of sports fields and arenas, while the Okanagan Equestrian Society, who organize racing days, insist they have the right to continue using the facility because of a guarantee made in 1964 when the property was donated to the city and regional district. In February, all parties agreed to put the litigation on hold. Despite the legal issues at hand, a Coldstream councillor believes the time is right to lobby the province for additional funding for the race track.
“I believe it’s a valid form of recreation,” she says. “It’s a legacy.”
She says the Interior’s three race tracks (in Vernon, Princeton and Osoyoos) are severely under funded while Hastings Park and Fraser Downs, in the Lower Mainland receive millions in gaming funds from the provincial government.
“There are more than just two race tracks, and the reality is, the others are not well funded,” Besso says. “If the regional district would help by lobbying the provincial government to increase the purse size (for Interior tracks), that would help the economy and make racing days more viable.”
Without additional funding, she says Kin race Track can’t realize its full potential. But the public interest is there, she says.
“At the last racing day, it was packed,” Besso says. “There’s obviously support and interest from the public.”
According to Besso's research, residents in the Interior bet millions of dollars on horse racing last year, but the region’s race tracks saw only a sliver of the proceeds.
“We’re not getting our fair share,” Besso says.
She believes the economic spin-off would affect numerous local industries, from hay farmers, to horse breeders, to the equipment operators who maintain the facility.
“It would support all the regions that have an agricultural component,” she says.
Besso is hoping the regional district will take the reins by requesting a meeting with Bill Bennett, the Community Development Minister, at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.