Brakes put on Vernon Racing Days this summer
A Vernon tradition won’t be getting out of the gates.
There won’t be any horse races at Kin Race Track this summer.
“It’s disappointing for us because we are the stewards of horse racing in Vernon,” said Ed Woolley, Okanagan Equestrian Society spokesperson.
Four races had been planned for July and August.
The decision to scrap races is a result of the society being notified of electrical issues in the grandstand earlier this year.
“A large number of things they want done are not safety issues,” said Woolley of the City of Vernon, which owns the track.
“The amount of money to fix those things will wipe out our reserves and the reserves are needed to fight litigation with the city.”
In 2010, the society was evicted from the property, which is owned by the city and the Regional District of North Okanagan (all titles are currently being transferred to the city).
The society claims equestrian activities were guaranteed when most of the track was turned over to the city in 1964 for free. It also alleges the regional district ignored an agreement for lease renewals.
Woolley says the society needs to focus on long-term access to the property.
“We will take this year off and push forward with litigation if that’s necessary or negotiate with the city on repairs to the grandstand,” he said.
“This situation is largely of the city’s making.”
RDNO has not continued with an annual $10,000 maintenance grant to the society while litigation was underway.
The society says the city should be providing the funds now that it is the sole owner of the site.
Woolley doesn’t believe the society is contravening any agreements with the city if races don’t occur.
“Taking one year off to address these issues is not a clear indication that horse racing is over. It will continue,” he said.
City of Vernon officials insist they have not ordered the electrical upgrades in the grandstand.
“The electrical issues are from the B.C. Safety Authority. It has locked out electrical services,” said Will Pearce, the city’s chief administrative officer.
Pearce added that the provincial safety authority will not allow power to resume until it is satisfied with the upgrades.
“The grandstand is the responsibility of the society and the city has expended dollars to repair the roof even though it didn’t have to do that.”
The city is responsible for grading the track surface itself.
In terms of an annual maintenance grant, Pearce also says that’s not under the city’s jurisdiction.
“The city is prepared to meet its obligations as per the contract with the city (and the society) and how the society deals with the expired agreement with RDNO is up to the society,” he said.
Pearce says the city will not be heavy-handed with the society because there are no races this summer.
“If the society chooses not to run races, that’s up to it,” he said.