iN PHOTOS: Exploring what remains of Vernon's historic Kin Race Track | Vernon News | iNFOnews

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iN PHOTOS: Exploring what remains of Vernon's historic Kin Race Track

Kin Park
May 25, 2018 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - Weeds and graffiti have taken over the once thriving grounds of Kin Race Track, making the historic site more of a ghost town than a boisterous sporting destination.

Where stamping Thoroughbreds once stood in the stables are birds' nests, garbage and the occasional marmot. Unruly thistles, tall grass and vines carpet the track and the rusty starting gate is kept company by a battered old pickup truck with shattered windows. Old bits of tinsel offer flickering memories of the action and thrill that once filled the grounds.

Despite the state of disrepair, the scenic grounds are sure to attract walkers and nature lovers. Towering trees, wildflowers, a busy little pond and views of the hills around Vernon await anyone adventurous enough to explore the roughly 7.5-acre, city-owned site. Despite no trespassing signs in some areas, the City says it won’t stop people from visiting.

“Kin track is not maintained at this time so we do not encourage or advertise walking or use of the area. That being said, we will not kick some one out of the area if we see them using the space for exercise,” city communications officer Nick Nilsen says.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the site now that the City and North Okanagan Regional District have won a court battle against the Okanagan Equestrian Society over use of the land. And, there’s still the possibility that the society will appeal.

“We are looking at our options right now,” society spokesperson Ed Woolley says. “We are all a little disappointed with the decision and obviously disagree with the reasoning of the judge with regards to certain parts of the judgement. With regards to the land itself, there is a deep historical tie to the community and to our society… it would be a shame at the end of the day if the history was lost.”

Established in 1893, this would have been the track’s 125th year. According to the Okanagan Equestrian Society, the track is the oldest in Canada (a distinction also claimed by the Fredericton Raceway in New Brunswick).

But horse racing hasn’t happened here since 2013 due to the long legal battle with local government. The dispute erupted a few years after the society sold the land to local government in 2000 and began leasing it for racing days and other events after that. Their agreement was set to be renewed every five years but in 2004, the regional district told the society it would not be renewing on grounds of an unacceptable five-year business plan from the society. The disagreement finally went to trial in 2017, and the judge ruled in favour of the City and regional district.

The society has 30 days from the date of judgement to file an appeal. If there is no appeal, the City will have the right to use the land as it sees fit and the society may pursue other locations. Transforming Kin Park into something more useable and viable has always been the city's plan, but nothing concrete was ever discussed due to the uncertain legal situation.

For racing fans like Woolley, it’s a sad state of affairs for a historical jewel like Kin Race Track.

“On race days, we used to have people lined up at the rails, two or three people deep. We had the grandstands and the beer garden full. It had this buzz of excitement, huge crowds out enjoying the races. It was an event you had to experience to fully appreciate it,” Woolley says. “It is sad to see the condition it’s in right now.”

For now, the defunct track remains in limbo — vestiges of racing days still there but for how much longer, nobody knows.

Kin Race Track
Kin Race Track

Kin Race Track
Kin Race Track

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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