Sides still miles apart in Kin Race Track dispute

Neither side is cracking the whip to put an end to a lengthy dispute over Kin Race Track and its future.

Neither side is cracking the whip to put an end to a lengthy dispute over Kin Race Track and its future.

The Okanagan Equestrian Society and City of Vernon remain no closer to finding an end to a dispute that has been going on for a decade.

“Nothing has been discussed that we’d even be able to move forward with,” said newly elected society president Robyn Dalziel of informal disucssions with the city, and admitting more legal action is possible.

“The society would like to get this matter settled as soon as possible. We don’t see any other option than moving this forward and we’ll discuss how we’ll go about doing that our first board meeting (middle of this month).”

The city and Regional District of North Okanagan, who own the 100-plus-year-old race track property, evicted the society on Dec. 31, 2010.

The society took both organizations to court, claiming equestrian activities were guaranteed when most of the track was turned over for free to the city.

The society has also claimed the regional district ignored an agreement for lease renewals.

Horse racing began at Kin Race Track in the late 1800s and the Vernon Jockey Club was formed in 1893 for holding pro horse races.

Such races were held yearly until 2014 when the track’s grandstand was destroyed by a fire.

Prior to that, Vernon Racing Days cards had dwindled from a full weekend of racing every Saturday and Sunday in July, with as many as nine races on the card, to a handful of days with limited races and horses.

“We’re unable to put on racing or any events at the facility because the city has allowed it to fall into such disrepair,” said Dalziel, a 40-plus-year society member who was elected president at last weekend’s annual general meeting.

“They have not used the proceeds from the grandstand burning down to rebuild the grandstand. There’s no washrooms, no electricity. The perimeter fence has been allowed to just fall over.”

The City of Vernon released a written statement, saying it confirms it is in negotiations with the society and the Vernon Jockey Club concerning the ongoing litigation but will not negotiate the matter through the media.

“We look forward to the interested parties sitting down together and having a frank and direct discussion,” said the city, also noting that “horse racing in the Okanagan has been in decline for many years, including before the start of this litigation, and that the basis for the Society being able to hold horse racing at Kin Park was terminated following the Society failing to satisfy the terms of an operating agreement it had for the use of Kin Park.”

The City is hopeful that negotiations with the society will be productive, but “is prepared to proceed to trial if necessary to protect the interests of all of its residents.”

No new talks between the two sides have been scheduled.