Vernon looks to revamp Kin Race Track

City council to discuss report calling for existing structures at historic facility to be torn down

City of Vernon staff is recommending to council that existing structures at a Vernon sports facility be demolished.

Council is expected to discuss a staff report Monday that calls for the demolition of the horse barns and observation towers, and the removal of exterior fencing, horse pens and track railing, as well as other safety issues, at Kin Race Track.

The city and Regional District of North Okanagan won a decade-old legal battle when the Okanagan Equestrian Society withdrew its appeal of an earlier court ruling in favour of the city and RDNO. The city assumed responsibility for the park.

RELATED: Vernon Kin Race Track appeal abandoned

The track has only been used for softball, with its four diamonds – two, of which, have lights – since the historic grandstand was destroyed in a 2014 fire. Vernon Racing Days cancelled its summer horse racing schedule after the fire and no horse races have been run since.

The sport was prominently featured at the facility for more than 100 years.

“Other than routine maintenance to the four ball diamonds, there has been no other improvements or general maintenance completed (since the grandstand fire)…,” wrote Kendra Kryszak, city manager of parks and public spaces, in a three-page report to council.

Since that time, site conditions have continued to deteriorate creating a significant public safety issue and detracting from the overall aesthetic appeal of this park. Lack of care and maintenance,failing structures, leftover garbage, hazardous debris, and the difficulties with securing this site all contribute to the concerns regarding safety.”

City staff have attempted to minimize the risk by disconnecting power service to the area, removing doors to the horse barns and providing ongoing security through city bylaw and contract outfits.

“Homeless camps also continue to be a concern, placing individuals in theses areas at-risk and result in additional costs relating to bylaw enforcement, security, garbage and debris removal,” said Kryszak.

RELATED: Fire destroys historic Kin Race Track grandstand

The softball diamond conditions are decent in regards to the grass and shale. However, the dugout roof structures are aging, the concrete footings for the fencing and benches are heaving and the infrastructure has reached its maximum useful life span.

“In an effort to address the immediate safety concerns relating to this site, administration is recommending that all structures, horse barns, cement foundations, horse track railing, observation towers, fencing, vehicles/debris and hazardous trees/vegetation, be removed,” said Kryszak.

“Disturbed areas should then be graded, returning this area back to a greenfield site (a piece of land that is undeveloped with few or no impediments to future development).”

Estimated cost of the work is $560,000, which the city would pay from insurance funds from the grandstand fire.

If approved, work could be completed at the site by the end of August.

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