July 09, 2014 - 4:49 PM
VERNON - There won’t be any horse races at Kin Race Track this summer because of what the Okanagan Equestrian Centre feels is a ploy from City Hall.
This spring, the society received a notice from the City of Vernon saying electrical upgrades were required before power was turned on in the grandstands.
“The society views... the notice from the city as being an attempt to win the lawsuit by depleting its available funds,” the society’s spokesperson Ed Woolley says.
For the society, which is currently in the midst of litigation with the city and the North Okanagan Regional District, paying for the upgrades would put a major dent in their reserve for legal fees.
“If we spend it on repairs that puts us at risk if we have a bad year revenue-wise with the races due to bad weather or things outside our control where we could deplete our reserve and not have enough to complete the litigation,” the society’s spokesperson Ed Woolley says.
The society was evicted from the property in 2010 by the city and the regional district, who have other ideas for the site, such as sports facilities. For the past several years, the regional district has not kept up with an annual $10,000 maintenance grant that would normally cover things like electrical repairs, Woolley says.
“This is the tenth year we haven’t received the $10,000,” Woolley says. “Over those years we’ve paid for maintenance and upkeep ourselves. Our position is they shouldn’t have stopped paying it to begin with.”
While some upgrades involve safety aspects, Woolley says others are aesthetic, such as the type of light bulbs to be used.
This would have marked the 121st year of horse racing at the track — the oldest in Canada. Four races were scheduled, which would have been the most since the 1990s.
“It’s an annual thing that a lot of people look forward to and a lot of people associate weekends in July with going to the races,” Woolley says. “The longterm picture is cancel races this one year, work out these issues in the meantime and hopefully we’ll be running again next year.”
Those at Vernon city hall insist the notice simply emerged as part of an ongoing parks restructuring process moving lands from the regional district to the City of Vernon.
“As they transfer it over we had our electrical guys inspect the facility and they had a couple concerns, so they called the B.C. Safety Authority,” Vernon councillor Catherine Lord says. “There were some very grave safety concerns on their part.”
She says the city’s only maintenance responsibility at this time is to grade the track surface.
“I personally would concur with the Safety Authority,” Lord says. “You have a lot of people there for an event and you want to make sure the place is safe.”
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