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Calgary motocross track at risk of closure as city eyes site for bus barns

It’s the only one of its kind in Calgary, boasting unique tracks with the city skyline as a backdrop, but after decades of high-octane fun, the Wild Rose Motocross Park is at risk of closure.

The park, located in an industrial area off Blackfoot Trail in the city’s southeast, has been around since the 1960s but was reborn in the 1980s when the Wild Rose Motocross Association was formed to run the facility.

“Having raced and competed around the world, I can’t really think of another facility smack dab in the middle of the city,” the park’s director, Shane Cuthbertson, told Global News.

The park has several tracks for dirt bikes, quads and pedal bikes with more than 30,000 users every year.

It also plays host to a variety of events throughout the year, from local and provincial competitions to international meets.

“We get people from all over North America who come to those, so a lot of different people, and a bit of a benefit to tourism as well,” Wild Rose Motocross Association president Dustin Heikkinen said.

But there are new concerns the track’s days are numbered.

The City of Calgary has launched a functional planning study of 50 Avenue S.E. from Macleod Trail to Blackfoot Trail S.E., with the potential to build a new bus maintenance and storage facility on the land that could accommodate the city’s incoming electric fleet of transit buses.

The facility would be a replacement for the Victoria Park bus barns when they’re eventually torn down to make way for development in the Culture and Entertainment District near the new event centre.

The city owns the land where the motocross park sits, and leases it to the Wild Rose Motocross Association.

“We’ve always known it’s a risk that (the city) may need it for something,” Cuthbertson said. “I think now people just really want to know what the plans are.”

The park has been a big park of Charlie Johnston’s life in Calgary. He has been riding at the park since he was 10 years old, eventually becoming a manager of the facility’s operations before starting his own business that specializes in the type of bikes used on the dirt tracks.

He said the park’s closure would be devastating for Calgary’s motorsports community.

“Calgary is super lucky to have a facility like this. It’s unique to have something so close to the city’s core. I’d love to see the city embrace it,” Johnston told Global News.

“People dream of having something like this and it would be devastating to lose it for our community.”

The Wild Rose Motocross Association is registered non-for-profit organization and operates the park with daily maintenance and grooming to keep down dust with no external funding or government support.

“It’s just such an asset that it wouldn’t be worth losing completely,” Wild Rose Motocross Association member Danika White told Global News. “We definitely want to work and figure out how we can be an asset to Calgary and make it better.”

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra stopped by the park Thursday, meeting with user and operators of the site.

He said the site is one of several the city is considering for the bus barns, and the scoping study would help determine what other infrastructure would be required to accommodate such a facility on the site.

However, Carra said the proposal is in “early days,” and the “well-established and beloved user group” on the site must be considered and accommodated by city administration if the site is chosen for the bus barns.

“Best-case scenario, we can build bus barns here that accommodates this use. Worst-case scenario is we have to find a new place for them to do what they do,” Carra said. “But there’s a lot of space in between those extremes, and this all might be sound and fury for no reason because we ultimately decide to put the bus barns somewhere else.”

According to city administration, the study will inform a planning document that provides recommendations about the future design of the 50 Avenue S.E. corridor, “should the project be funded in the future.”

The city is gathering feedback on the study through a survey on its website until Jan. 12, 2024.

“In an ideal world, we’d stay here forever,” Heikkinen said. “To have a place to ride, around the Calgary area, for participants is really what everybody would love.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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