April 10, 2015 - 2:33 PM
VERNON - It will be another quiet summer at Vernon’s historic horse racing track as plans for its future remain mired in uncertainty.
Arson gutted Kin Race Track’s grandstands last summer, and without them the Okanagan Equestrian Society’s president says no events can be held.
“Everything runs out of the grandstand,” Robert White says.
The rubble left behind from the burnt-out grandstands remains blocked off, and over the winter part of the fence around the grounds collapsed, he says.
“To have the public come in there, it puts people in jeopardy. We could bring toilets and stuff in, but the biggest thing is to make it safe for people,” White says.
The society leases the land from the City of Vernon, and is currently fighting to keep horse racing alive after being evicted from the property in 2010. The city sees other possibilities for the land, but the society argues an agreement made years ago called for the site to be used in perpetuity for equestrian activities.
The insurance from the grandstand fire goes to the city, not the society, and while White believes it has an obligation to rebuild, Mayor Akbal Mund isn’t so sure.
“First we need to get the money, then we’ll look at, do we want to go back and rebuild the grandstand? Is that the best thing to do, or is it better to build something better than the grandstand that’s more useful to the community?” Mund says.
During a recent strategic planning session, council made its desire clear to resolve the dispute with the Equestrian Society by the end of 2015, and Mund is hopeful that can be done outside of court.
“We have to look at it logically and ask if the society's vision makes sense, or if moving forward does and saying maybe (horse racing) should move somewhere else," Mund says. "There’s options out there and everything needs to be looked at."
Informal discussions are taking place between Mund and the society, but no official meeting dates have been set to discuss next steps.
The society insists horse racing is still viable, but White worries the longer Kin Race Track goes without events, the further it will fall into a state of disrepair.
“As long as it’s not being used, it just falls apart. No one fixes it. We need people to use the facility,” he says. “Almost on a weekly basis I get a phone call from someone asking if they can use the facility and I have to say the same thing. Nothing is moving forward.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015