NO NOISE IS GOOD NOISE
Will Cayuga Dragway be ready for the IHRA national event?
By Darr Hawthorne
Cayuga, Ontario is a small town in Southern Canada with approximately
1,600 residents, but as in many parts of North America, local residents
are being increasingly vocal about issues such as noise emitting from
motorsports venues. Cayuga is also the home of Toronto Motorsports Park.
Cayuga Dragway, part of Toronto Motorsports Park, has been in operation
since the late 1940s, but recently issues about noise have jeopardized
the continued usage of both the dragway and the road course.
Currently the dragway is under a massive construction project in anticipation
of the inaugural IHRA ACDelco Canadian Nationals on August 9-11, 2002.
Under the direction of track owner and former IMSA road racer, Uli Bieri,
a total transformation of the dragway is in the works, with a 660-foot
concrete launch pad, three story control tower, a state of the art lighting
system, a new cement safety wall, fencing, and an extension of the track
to 4,000 feet including a new top end safety sand trap.
It's a huge undertaking, one noticed by long-time Cayuga resident Catherine
Stidson who drove by the construction site recently and told DRO, "I
live six kilometers from that dragway and that place is absolutely,
completely, totally, and entirely torn apart at the moment."
Stidson and other residents of Cayuga have been fighting improvements
to Toronto Motorsports Park since the illegal usage of the road course
caught everyone's attention.
When reached by telephone, Ms. Stidson had just begun reading a transcript
of the last Town Council meeting. She said, "I'm just sitting here reading
about the decision that was made at the council meeting Monday night
and the Mayor (Mayor Lorraine Bergstrand of Cayuga) is adamant, saying,
'Not a wheel will turn in that place until you've met all the requirements!'"
Noise abatement has been a major issue among the racetrack's neighbors,
but Ms. Stidson was quick to point out that, "it has been exceedingly
poorly managed; it's just been purchased by this new gentleman and supposedly
he's willing to comply with everything that's being asked of them. I
personally don't know how they're going to get these (sound) berms up
between now and the end of July."
To add to the perceived problems at Toronto Motorsports Park, Stidson
alledged, "All kinds of people have been showing up all over the county
with checks that have bounced."
While the concerns noted by Catherine Stidson are important, a spokesman
for Halimand County, the governmental entity with jurisdiction over
Toronto Motorsports Park, put things into perspective.
Bill Pierce, General Manager of Planning and Economic Development,
explained that "there are a number of issues with the dragway. First
of all, they're renovating the whole dragway operation itself, and they
needed a zoning bylaw amendment. That actually went through our council
on Monday, but they also built a race circuit, a road course, which
is separate from the dragway and they did that illegally or they used
it illegally. They were charged with zoning bylaw infractions and they
went to the local court and they pleaded guilty."
Pierce noted that this was a complex issue since the "dragway operation
is a legal operation." However he said, "With approvals that they received
on Monday there's a commitment by them that they're going to be looking
at what they can do to reduce noise impacts from the dragway."
Pierce added that another cause for neighbor's concern was that last
year they had a jet car there and that "creates a different kind of
noise and that created some problems, too."
Pierce noted, "We have a noise control bylaw and it applies to the
dragway, but it's basically from 9:00 in the morning and 12:00 (midnight).
Now we're going to be revisiting that."
Despite the new regulations, Bill Pierce is supportive of the track
since Toronto Motorsports Park is a major tourist attraction in the
Part of the "reasonable controls" being imposed by the county include
the purchase of a sound monitor that will be used to test every prospective
vehicle on the track and the construction of noise buffering berms.
Construction of those berms has delayed renovation of the dragway. According
to the regulations, the berms must be completed before running any events
on the track. The racetrack owners will also be required to pay for
a noise mitigation study. Further regulations will see the county providing
licensing and regulation of all racing events held in the area.
Debbie Link, a representative of dragway neighbors said, "If we don't
hear the track, they can race all they want."
Long-time resident Stidson added, "We have asked for absolutely no
Sunday racing at all and several of us are suggesting that the road
course has to be contained on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday instead
of a little bit of noise everyday. I have been operating a small retreat
which had to close down because of this road course."
While most of the issues revolve around the abuses at the Toronto Motorsports
Park road course, it has certainly held up and slowed the improvements
to the dragway. If the dragway is finished for the up-coming IHRA ACDelco
Canadian Nationals and the race is indeed held at Cayuga, you probably
won't find Ms. Stidson and her friends from this small town hanging
on the fences at 1,000 feet or lining up for Clay Millican's autograph.