Drag racers in the Alberni Valley are hoping to open a permanent facility in the City of Port Alberni within the next few years.
But first, the Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association (AVDRA) wants to return to the Alberni Valley Regional Airport.
The annual Thunder in the Valley drag races were silenced in 2019 after the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) board denied the AVDRA’s application to hold the races at the airport during a controversial in-camera meeting. Although the city approved the use of Stamp Avenue for the drag races, the AVDRA decided to cancel the event, citing a lack of space and a loss of funds.
Dave Beecroft, vice president of the AVDRA, brought the association’s proposal for drag racing in 2020 to the ACRD board on Wednesday, Dec. 11. The AVDRA is asking for a three-year lease at the airport in order to raise funds to build a permanent track in Port Alberni, with the support of the city.
After this year’s disappointment, Beecroft said the AVDRA is looking at a “new direction” for the future.
“We understood that we’ll never get back to a permanent location at the airport,” he said. “We know that will never happen.”
In the fall of this year, the association started meeting with members of Port Alberni’s city council, including Mayor Sharie Minions, to discuss the possibility of building a permanent drag strip in town. They have identified several potential locations, although Beecroft did not want to discuss them yet.
Minions said there is “general support” from Port Alberni’s city council to build a permanent drag strip within city limits.
“We do see a very realistic chance that in the next two years, we could have a permanent drag strip in the city of Port Alberni,” she said on Wednesday.
Beecroft said that the AVDRA has talked to most of the leaseholders at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport about the proposed three-year lease, although they are still waiting to hear back from a few.
“No one has said ‘no’ so far,” said Beecroft.
The request will be brought to the Alberni Valley and Bamfield Services Committee meeting in January, after which it will come back to the ACRD board for a final decision. The AVDRA has asked for a decision to be made in January so that they can start fundraising.
“I think they got our message,” said Beecroft after the meeting.
He pointed out that Stamp Avenue was not an ideal location for the drag races because it interrupted traffic in town, and a permanent position at the airport will not be possible. So the AVDRA is looking in a new direction, searching for a “low impact area” within city limits to host a permanent facility.
“We’re not giving up,” he said. “We really want to race.”
A petition that has been travelling around the Alberni Valley since the summer has garnered more than 6,000 signatures supporting the return of the annual Thunder in the Valley drag races.
“We know we have the community’s support,” Beecroft said on Wednesday.