By Heather Killen
When Greg Banks decided to build a racetrack, he thought it was best to talk it over with the neighbours first.
Banks and his partner Peggy Gould purchased a vacant parcel of land last year on a section of the Dodge Road that adjoins land they already owned along the Vault Road.
The site’s nearest neighbour is a farm located on the corner of the Dodge Road and the Spa Springs Road.
Banks said that because the site is remote, situated in a gulley that is surrounded by trees, his only concern was the neighbour on the corner. "He told me that he didn’t like the idea of all the traffic going by his house," said Banks. "But he didn’t seem worried about noise. He told me his lawn mower would probably make more noise than the track would."
Believing he had his neighbour’s support, Banks also checked in with staff at the municipal planning office in Lawrencetown.
He then verified with the Department of Environment there was no environmental concern before proceeding with his plans for the dirt oval track. "I followed all the rules and procedures," he said. "We’re doing everything above board, but some people make it sound like we’re in the wrong."
Banks said that while he held off making any formal announcements about his intention to build the racetrack, it was no closely guarded secret.
Both Banks and Gould said they had no idea the racetrack was a contentious issue until flyers were circulated in Melvern Square, and a community meeting was arranged by Councillor Marilyn Wilkins in April.
He added that he is dismayed at how the situation has since escalated, and at the division that it’s causing between neighbours within the small community.
Originally from Kingston, Banks moved to the Vault Road five years ago and revived an auto repair shop. He also established his own salvage business on the site.
Banks has raced his own cars at various tracks in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He said he’s trying to bring an event to the area that is geared towards younger people. "So many things here are aimed at seniors, and most younger people are moving out west," he said. "I wanted to give them something to do here. There’s just nothing here for them to do."
Racing is a popular sport among all ages. More than a dozen local drivers now regularly travel to tracks in Yarmouth, Shubenacadie, Queens County, and Amherst.
Banks said he thinks car racing is the type of community event that promotes responsibility and fair play. "It sounds funny to say it, but racing actually slows you down," he said. "Street racing happens now, but they don’t usually get caught. Put those people on tracks and they’ll drive slower on the roads."
Racers follow strict rules at the racetrack and are penalized for the slightest infractions. Moreover, safety concerns force both drivers and pit crews to remain alert, reinforcing the zero tolerance rules for drugs and alcohol. "One man told me he’s happy his son races because he spends so much time working on his car and working to pay for his car, that he has no time to go out drinking with his friends," Banks said.
Gould said that she was introduced to the racing community after she met Banks six years ago. She added that while she doesn’t race herself, she enjoys the suspense of watching other people. "You get to know the people who are racing, and it’s fun to watch and cheer for them," she said. "They all race to beat each other, but they all help each other, too."
She said whenever the drivers have a mechanical problem, the different crews help each other to fix the problem and will often lend car parts to the competition.
Banks agreed. "It’s a nice feeling to know that you’re racing against the same guy that you just borrowed the drive shaft from."
He added that while racing is a competitive sport, it teaches people to ease up and not risk injuring another person to win. "If I’m coming up to a corner and it’s not safe to pass another driver, I’ll wait," he said. "You don’t risk injuring someone for a short term gain."
Banks plan is to eventually hold stock car races on Sunday afternoons, twice a month. The drivers will use streetcars with factory-built engines.
The main modifications made to stockcars are done to the interiors. Creature comforts are taken out and replaced with roll cages for driver safety. "They’re the kind of cars that your mother would take to the grocery store," he said. "All the cars have to conform to the rules of the track, and it’s easier for us to check street cars."
So far, Banks said he has already invested a significant amount of money in the racetrack. Aside from the land, he has bought a fire truck; and a water truck to douse the track and keep dust down.
The track’s construction is progressing more slowly than he had anticipated. Banks said he doesn’t expect it will be officially open until next year, although he is hoping to hold an informal event in the fall to introduce drivers to the new track.
He added that when the track is open, paramedics and security staff will be onsite during each event. He expects to hire about 10 part time people in addition to the people who have already volunteered.
Racetrack owners respond to criticism
Banks followed all the rules
By Heather Killen
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