HEATHER BOA Bullet News Huron WALTON – The land is quiet and bare around Chris Lee’s farmhouse just north of Walton, but he has no difficulty conjuring up a picture of motocross competitors vying for top position on a dirt track lined by spectators while flags and banners flutter in the breeze during Parts Canada TransCan Grand National Championship Motocross this month.
He had always been intrigued by the character of the land, with its flat crop land, hardwood bush, series of ponds and sinkholes, pockets of remnant brick and tile from brickworks, and undulating land created by glaciers that pushed through thousands of years ago. Over the years, he’s planted more than 80,000 trees to replace cow pasture and will cut hay timed with when the field is required to park thousands of cars. Etched into that natural landscape is a unique dirt racetrack that traverses flats and scoots through the dips.
His vision for a raceway grew out of a personal interest in motocross racing. He began competing in 1970. He held on to a vision of an event like the TransCan taking place at his farm.
“To be honest, I had a pretty grandiose vision when everyone else thought it would be a little thing. For it to work, somebody has to be able to see a bit of a grander thing. I did,” he said.
“I don’t mean to brag, but I’m not entirely surprised. I believed it had the potential to grow,” he said.
The first racing event was held at the farm in 1972, when the Hodaka distributor representative showed up with a trailer load of
motocross bikes for a day-long demo ride. Over the next 40 years, the raceway grew, spilling outward from the area around his house. Growth accelerated about a decade ago, after a successful battle with cancer. He rearranged his business life and decided to turn a hobby into a business.
This year, the TransCan, Aug. 14-19, will open on a completely reconfigured raceway grounds. A new event centre will serve as a registration area and the gateway to the grounds. More than 80 vendors will move from inside the track to a field outside the doors of the event centre, making more room for spectators at the track. A new camping area has been created for the 1,000 racers and their families, which come from across the country and into the U.S. Camping is also available for visitors.
The racers will stage at a location in Blyth to avoid congestion along his rural roadway, then begin arriving at Walton Raceway on Tuesday, Aug. 14, with amateur racing beginning the following day and running until Saturday, Aug. 18, with pro racing on Sunday, Aug. 19. Over the course of the event, more than 30,000 people will come through the front gates.
The raceway has developed numerous partnerships over the years.
First of all, community groups will pitch in to help remove garbage and recycling, run the bar, serve coffee at the Tim Horton’s kiosk and do other tasks to raise money for their organizations. He estimates community groups raise a total $25,000 during the event.
“I’ve gone out of my way to engage with groups in the community so they could benefit from what we were doing,” he said, noting for many, it’s the main fund-raiser of the year.
The raceway has partnered with a number of environmental and conservation groups to create Lee Wetland Restoration Project, a wetland buffer nestled at the edge of the property. It includes walking trails around a chain of ponds.
Even the event centre’s 100-kw rooftop solar project as part of the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-In Tariff project is a partnership with KW PowerLogic of Brussels, which provided engineering, procurement, construction and management services.
This year, the raceway has received $75,000 from the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural’s Celebrate Ontario Initiative to enhance the event to attract people who are new to motocross racing. The matching funding will be used, in part, to stage a performance by country singer Jason Blaine. The Canadian singer songwriter will perform after the races on Friday, Aug. 16. The concert will be free to all racing participants, full event spectators and weekend spectators. One-day pass for the day of the performance is $25.
As the business grows, Lee prepares to pass the business on to his son, Brett.
“It’s got to be viable economically and in order to do that, there’s got to be some more diverse things to do. It’s a necessity, but it’s also an opportunity because nobody else is doing this,” he said.
Lee would like to expand a season of about 25 days of event by adding a bicycle pump track over a rolling configuration of half-buried logs, mountain bike trails through a quarter mile of hardwood bush and plantations, endurance bike racing, four-wheel drive truck races, mud bogs and radio controlled off-road truck racing.
“What we’re trying to do is to look at all the outdoor recreation. Some of it’s noisy and some of it’s not. It’s a pretty broad spectrum of interests and activities when you add them all up,” he said.
To view the online event program, ticket information and more, visit online.