Drivers, including Port Alberni’s Richard Spencer in background, roar into action in 2018 along Stamp Avenue. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

EDITORIAL: Cancellation of drag races another hit to Port Alberni tourism

The first hit came a few months ago when city council shut down popular Alberni Pacific Railway

Port Alberni’s tourism economy has taken a second blow this year with the news Thunder in the Valley has been cancelled for 2019.

The first hit came a few months ago when Port Alberni City Council shut down the popular Alberni Pacific Railway for the season in order to study how much it will cost to bring the train and tracks back to operational status.

Now another event that drew people into the community, providing entertainment as well as a revenue source for the city, is gone.

Thunder in the Valley has for 18 years brought in heart-pounding drag racing events—all but the last two held at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. The airport runway afforded racers a full quarter-mile strip wide enough for some fast cars to compete side by side.

The runway was expanded two years ago in a multi-million-dollar project to draw more aviation business to the Alberni Valley. The operators (Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District) want to protect that investment, which is understandable.

What is difficult to comprehend is the way the decision was made to deny access to the airport: in camera, a private vote with few details released to anyone, including the drag racing association. Faced with a smaller venue on Stamp Avenue, diminished parking area for the pits and mounting expenses, the association cancelled the races.

There are parallels to each cancellation: they were both fraught with political debate, and they both created emotional outrage within the community. They will both be missed.

Regardless of the criticism over the operation of McLean Mill and the steam train, they are still draws for tourists from outside this community. Drag racers may represent a relatively small community, but fast cars and racing are always a magnet to people of all ages.

If taking a year off from the steam train and Thunder in the Valley results in better management of the Alberni Pacific Railway or a better event for drag racers, then we will stand to reap the benefits.

We need to ensure these pauses don’t drag on: the steam operation at McLean Mill ceased more than two years ago, and although people still ask about it, there is no sign the saw will ever fire up again.

Another event that usually takes place the same weekend as drag racing is the Five Acre Shaker. With the news that McLean Mill—which has hosted the Shaker for the past few years—may have to undergo more intensive water testing all over the site, we hope another large event isn’t next on the chopping block.

— Alberni Valley News

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Port Alberni RCMP look for witnesses of daytime assault

A woman was assaulted while jogging in North Port

Racist incident shocks Tseshaht First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP looking for information

Federal government says no to relaxing log export rules

News comes after Steelworkers, Mosaic ask for ‘temporary relief’ on log export policy

Port Alberni residents gather to protest racism

Peaceful Drive By Protest planned for Thursday

San Group opens new sawmill in B.C.

It’s the first mill in 15 years to be built on west coast

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Most Read