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Public Hearing Rumbles Over Motorcycle Track Reopening

By Laura Fredericks, Daily Nexus, May 4, 1976

Nearly 300 Goleta Valley residents attended last week’s Public Hearing on the proposed reopening of the motorcycle track on Los Carneros Road. The purpose of the hearing was to gather public opinion, not to make a decision on the issue. The views expressed will be used in making a recommendation for the City Council to vote on next week.

The lively meeting was chaired by Richard Johns of the City Recreation Department. His main concern seemed to be keeping order among the loud and often emotional participants. More than once he interrupted the meeting, warning the audience to “keep it civil.”

The panel sitting in the front of the auditorium included Joe Hanon of the Santa Barbara Community Services Department; Robert Turkington, who conducted sound tests at the track for the County Health Department; Kier Nash, a UCSB professor who is also chairman of the Off Roads Vehicle Advisory Committee; and Mike Pahos of the County Parks Department. Each member made a short presentation before the floor was opened to the public’s questions and statements.

In view of the number of helmets in hand, and the general audience reaction to the speakers, it was clear that the majority were in favor of re-opening the track.

Representing a typical attitude of the proponents was Tony Rays, a Santa Barbara resident who stated that “the fact is we want to race, and we have to have a place to race.” He agreed with Dr. Nash who said “the demand is not being met.” He also claimed that one out of every eight or nine houses in the state are now “bike owning.”

The opposition, mainly composed of Married Student’s Housing residents, directed the majority of their questions to the legitimacy of the sound tests conducted by Turkington. These residents reported that they had been constantly bothered by the noise before the track was officially closed two years ago.

One woman articulated their frustrating situation saying, “science tells us that it is not loud, but we know that it is loud.” Other residents questioned the environmental impact of the track and the possibility of finding another site.

Robert Turkington’s report on the noise tests he has conducted revealed a number of problems which hindered him. They used only a short time for the actual testing (4 hours), and interference in the form of wind and airplanes further disrupted their tests. His conclusion was that “you could hear it but it was not a jarring thing.”

Richard Johns claimed that a muffler control operation at the entrance of the facility would help bring down the noise level. It would guarantee compliance with state laws. He stated that the number of bikes running at any one time would be restricted to 25.

Mike Pahos also felt that the Los Carneros site “is a good one,” since it is already in the airport noise zone, and is small enough to discourage regional use.

The opponents were not pacified by the claims of the panel. One speaker asked Dr. Nash how he would feel “if a track were built 300 yards from his home.” Another MSH resident invited Mr. Turkington to spend a Sunday afternoon at their apartment during the races so that he could get “an accurate noise level reading.”

Speaking in behalf of the University, Vice-Chancellor Goodspeed admitted the need for a racing site but insisted that this need not be met in an environmentally harmful or abusive manner.

Three representatives from the Chumash Indian Tribe added an interesting element to the strong conflict of interests at the meeting. Their spokesman pointed out that the site had been their tribes’ ritual burial ground. Criticizing the lack of consideration given to the historical and religious significance of the land, he asked the silenced audience to “please consider our feelings and values and find another site.”

As the meeting continued it became increasingly obvious that no one opposed the motorcycles themselves. As one local high school teacher said, “Everyone agrees that we need a place.” According to the bikers the airport site is the only feasible place. According to the MSH residents the disturbance caused by racing at that site is intolerable.

One speaker pointed out that at the proposed site restrictions on the number of days riding is allowed, on the number of bikes allowed, and on the bikes themselves may prove to be such a nuisance that “it would be in the riders’ best interest to find a more agreeable site.”

OFF THE STREETS? – Controversy surrounds plans to reopen the Los Carneros Motorcycle Track which would give Santa Barbara bikers a chance to keep their vehicles off the road. (Al Pena/Daily Nexus photo)
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