Letter asks council to end lawnmower racing, demo derby

·4 min read

A Woodstock resident wants council to end what he describes as "frivolous" motorsports displays such as the demo derby and lawnmower races in town facilities.

In a handwritten letter made public at Woodstock's Tuesday, Aug. 24, council meeting, Conrad Anderson said he was "profoundly disappointed" Woodstock's municipal government would allow lawnmower racing at the Connell Park Raceway at the end of July.

"What a frivolous and uncaring way to bring pleasure to a few and harm to many," wrote Anderson, who attended the Aug. 24 council meeting. "Within a short time, we will have a sequel to this reprehensible behaviour with the staging of the Demolition Derby."

Anderson described the burning of fossil fuels for fun as the world faces a climate crisis as "unnecessary, indefensible and unforgivable."

After CAO Ken Anthony read the letter into the record, Mayor Art Slipp acknowledged Anderson's presence at the meeting, thanking him for the letter before asking council members for their comments.

Coun. Trina Jones noted council is currently undergoing a program to study effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all areas of the town's operations to get to net-zero emissions.

While unsure whether motorsports events are or will be discussed, she believes Anderson's complaint should be considered in the context of those discussions.

"Mr. Anderson chose a very specific issue that he felt strongly about," she said.

Jones said the point of the process is to find ways to reduce carbon emission while finding ways to offset the emission of activities we want to keep. She says council and staff must exercise "due diligence" when studying all activities, but the process must be wide-ranging. '

Coun. Jeff Bradbury expressed his respect for Anderson, but he also understands the great enjoyment participants and spectators gain from motorsport events.

"We have to strike a balance," he said.

Bradbury said he attended the lawnmower races and witnessed a fantastic family event bringing people together for an enjoyable evening.

"On the other hand," he said, "I also understand what's going on with climate change."

Bradbury said the challenge is to reduce greenhouse gases without limiting the fun and traditions area residents enjoy.

Deputy Mayor Amy Anderson said that some people participate in activities we sanction in society, while others don't join because of personal preferences.

Anderson echoed Jones' comments about the importance of reducing emissions, noting the alarming data surrounding the pending impact of climate change. She shared information related to addressing the problem.

"The significant way we reduce our emissions is in how we do our development," the deputy mayor said. "Are we doing developments where travelling by car is necessary, or are we doing developments where people can get from A to B easily."

Deputy Mayor Anderson said she prefers the municipality focuses on development where it can have a positive, long-lasting impact.

Coun. While taking issue with some of the terms Anderson used to describe people involved in motorsports, Coun. Randy Leonard said shutting down events like lawnmower races or the demo derby would serve no purpose.

"If we cancel them here, they'll just go out of town," he said.

In his letter, Conrad Anderson explained coming upon the lawnmower race while walking his dog.

"As I walked my dog through that venue that evening and unexpectedly encountered the noise, lights, dust, stink, exhaust, commotion and uproar, I was furious that some people could be so uncaring and you, as a municipal government, are the enablers.

He asked council to compare that event against an event around a similar time, which had children running a foot race in "a library-sponsored event encouraging reading and movement, and hopefully, intellectual and critical thinking skills."

Mayor Slipp explained the town encourages groups to host events in the community, and if the event is popular and successful, council tries not to pass judgement.

Regarding global warming and energy efficiency, the mayor said the town works hard to find ways to reduce its impact.

He noted the town is currently involved in a certification program as it strives for energy efficiency and sustainability.

The mayor ended the discussion of the letter by telling Anderson that council will keep his letter on file and takes his viewpoints under advisement. While they won't provide answers at the meeting, Slipp said, someone from the town will contact him in due course.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

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