Drivers, including Port Alberni’s Richard Spencer in background, roar into action in 2018 along Stamp Avenue. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

EDITORIAL: Cancellation of drag races another hit to Port Alberni tourism

The first hit came a few months ago when city council shut down popular Alberni Pacific Railway

Port Alberni’s tourism economy has taken a second blow this year with the news Thunder in the Valley has been cancelled for 2019.

The first hit came a few months ago when Port Alberni City Council shut down the popular Alberni Pacific Railway for the season in order to study how much it will cost to bring the train and tracks back to operational status.

Now another event that drew people into the community, providing entertainment as well as a revenue source for the city, is gone.

Thunder in the Valley has for 18 years brought in heart-pounding drag racing events—all but the last two held at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. The airport runway afforded racers a full quarter-mile strip wide enough for some fast cars to compete side by side.

The runway was expanded two years ago in a multi-million-dollar project to draw more aviation business to the Alberni Valley. The operators (Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District) want to protect that investment, which is understandable.

What is difficult to comprehend is the way the decision was made to deny access to the airport: in camera, a private vote with few details released to anyone, including the drag racing association. Faced with a smaller venue on Stamp Avenue, diminished parking area for the pits and mounting expenses, the association cancelled the races.

There are parallels to each cancellation: they were both fraught with political debate, and they both created emotional outrage within the community. They will both be missed.

Regardless of the criticism over the operation of McLean Mill and the steam train, they are still draws for tourists from outside this community. Drag racers may represent a relatively small community, but fast cars and racing are always a magnet to people of all ages.

If taking a year off from the steam train and Thunder in the Valley results in better management of the Alberni Pacific Railway or a better event for drag racers, then we will stand to reap the benefits.

We need to ensure these pauses don’t drag on: the steam operation at McLean Mill ceased more than two years ago, and although people still ask about it, there is no sign the saw will ever fire up again.

Another event that usually takes place the same weekend as drag racing is the Five Acre Shaker. With the news that McLean Mill—which has hosted the Shaker for the past few years—may have to undergo more intensive water testing all over the site, we hope another large event isn’t next on the chopping block.

Just Posted

Olympic skier from Nanaimo suing Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Electrical appliance failure likely caused apartment fire that killed Saanich resident

Large parts of the Richmond Road apartment building remain uninhabitable following June 21 fire

Vancouver Island fruit stand plundered on first day of season

Leeanne and Jack Guthrie dismayed to find money and fruit stolen from roadside stand

Fate of accused in Saanich couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Victoria woman accesses healing Burn Fund resources 45 years after injury

Stasi Manser was burned when she was five years old and now works as an adult burn survivor advocate

VIDEO: Victoria airport guests see dinosaur surprise

Two boys dressed as raptors get a shock when their grandmother comes to greet them

Nanaimo man gets jail time for posting explicit photos of ex-girlfriends

Man’s name cannot be revealed to protect victims’ identities

Former Greater Victoria badminton coach pleads guilty to 8 counts of sexual abuse

All charges relate to incidents taking place from 1970 to 1984

‘Irresponsible’ cigarette tossing blamed for two brushfires on Pat Bay highway

Fires could have started from any of the “dozens” of discarded cigarettes, says chief

North Island thrift store robbed at knifepoint, say RCMP

Suspect fled on bicycle following Tuesday stick-up

UPDATE: RCMP arrest second person in North Island arson investigation

Police say suspects identified, house fire ‘not random’

Fraser Institute releases latest B.C. high school rankings

Fastest improving schools are in cities including Agassiz, Kitimat and 100 Mile House

Most Read