The Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association has started a petition to bring drag racing back to Port Alberni’s regional airport.
The AVDRA hosted their annual Thunder in the Valley drag racing event for 15 years at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport, from 2001-2015. When the airport runway was expanded in 2016-17, the event moved temporarily to Stamp Avenue in the middle of Port Alberni, downsizing from a full quarter-mile drag strip to an eighth-mile strip.
Earlier this spring they had already been given the green light to return to the airport for 2019 when the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, which owns and operates the airport, suddenly reversed its decision in an in camera meeting.
No reason was given for the reversal, and since the vote was taken in camera, the ACRD board is not required to divulge details of the vote.
Roger Haggerty is an AVDRA member who wants to see the drag races return to the airport.
“My task is to try and get us back to the airport,” he said. A drag racer himself, Haggerty is also soliciting support to build a permanent motor sports facility somewhere in the Alberni Valley.
A website has been set up for the petition at SaveAlberniDragRacing.com. There is an information page, and another page where people can write their support—those are also e-mailed to both the City of Port Alberni and Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
The AVDRA is asking for a five-year commitment at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. “Anywhere from two to five years would be ideal,” Haggerty said. “The idea is to get back there and raise money to pay for something more permanent.”
The biggest cost to a permanent facility will be clearing a piece of land large enough for a quarter-mile drag strip and return road. Haggerty said such a facility is not just a pipe dream for racers.
“We have more than one place identified. We’re actively looking; it’s a process.” He declined to identify where the possible sites are, saying it’s too early in the process.
A group in Campbell River has been pushing to build a permanent motor sports facility at the airport in Campbell River further north on Vancouver Island; they were recently turned down and there has been talk of a significant chunk of money coming available. Haggerty said he has spoken to the Campbell River group and the reality is they want to build in their own community.
The petition is the second item in the AVDRA’s pitch for support to bring the drags back to the airport. People in the Alberni Valley last week began receiving a Thunder in the Valley fact sheet that was mailed to every address in and around the city.
The third part is a formal petition that AVDRA members will be taking to various events this summer. They were at the Westwind Pub’s annual classic car show n’ shine on June 2 and at the Alberni Co-op Member Appreciation Day event at the Alberni Fairgrounds on June 8.
Association members also planned to be in Qualicum Beach on the weekend at a car show asking people from outside the community to sign the petition, to show there is widespread support for bringing the event back.
The AVDRA hopes to gather signatures from the mail out, website and formal petition, then present it to the ACRD board at a future meeting, Haggerty said.
While the 2019 Thunder in the Valley drag races have been cancelled, Haggerty said the association is already looking at their options for 2020 regardless of whether Alberni’s airport is available.