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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 area.

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.


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