Planned motocross event called off 

Outdoor activity providers have varying response to smoky conditions

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - SMOKED OUT The Green River Motorsports Park saw racing action scheduled for this weekend cancelled because of smoky conditions.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • SMOKED OUT The Green River Motorsports Park saw racing action scheduled for this weekend cancelled because of smoky conditions.

Poor air quality conditions have forced the cancellation of a motocross event in Pemberton.

With the Environment Canada's Air Quality Health Index sitting at 10-plus, or very high risk, on July 7, BC Motocross opted to cancel its seventh race of the year, the Canadian Kawasaki Motors BC Motocross South Series event, which was to be hosted at Green River Motocross Park. Organizers estimated 200 competitors would have taken part in the race, the seventh of eight events on this season's calendar.

In a post on BC Motocross' Facebook page, Future West Moto general manager Stu McQueen said the organization wanted to make a decision early rather than leave riders and their families twisting in the wind. Given the situation on July 7, BC Motocross felt the prudent move was to cancel, though it hopes to return to Pemberton soon.

Park general manager Kevin LaBatte said after talking to local fire officials in the area, they weren't left with much choice with air quality, visibility and extreme fire issues.

"The main thing right now is the smoke that's everywhere," he said. "We're thinking that if we get people driving up Friday from all over the province and we still have this (smoke), how are we going to get them to race Saturday (and) Sunday without falling over and dying?"

LaBatte is hopeful to reschedule this year, but noted the circuit's schedule was designed with respect to other loops in the province and in Alberta, so there may not be many free weekends available without stepping on some toes.

WORCA, meanwhile, cancelled its July 9 Toonie Race and its July 10 and 11 Barbie and Ken Race because of the conditions.

Other outdoor activities in the Sea to Sky are seeing effects from the smoke as well.

The Meadows at Pemberton has seen an estimated 20-to-25-per-cent drop in business since the smoke began intensifying on July 6, according to general manager Kevin McLeod.

When told some other local ventures weren't reporting any effects, McLeod expressed his doubts.

"Everyone's down," he said. "It's pretty thick up here, obviously. It depends who you talk to from Whistler — is it thicker there or here? — and you get different answers all the time so it's probably about the same."

McLeod found some silver lining, noting the smoke cover has cooled temperatures and made the course easier to maintain after several days of intense heat.

Whistler Golf Club sales manager Ro Davies, meanwhile, said 12 people had cancelled their rounds for July 7 based on the smoke, which represents about eight per cent of the scheduled business for that day.

"We're being realistic about it. If somebody doesn't want to play because they don't want to play in this, that's no problem," Davies said.

Davies added walk-up business was also likely deterred by the conditions, but said there's no way of knowing how many potential golfers opted for another activity instead.

The club's kids camp went ahead as planned on July 6, but cancelled proceedings for July 7. Davies said the club is monitoring the situation and will get kids back on the links when it is safe to do so.

Whistler Blackcomb director of mountain operations Doug MacFarlane said kids at its DFX camps were kept inside when the air quality dipped, and noted the Whistler Mountain Bike Park closed early on July 7 when the smoke hampered visibility.

MacFarlane said visits to the bike park were down because of the smoke but declined to say how much of a toll the conditions were taking on business.

Whistler Blackcomb's new smoking ban, in particular, received emphasis from MacFarlane with fire risks up to "extreme" levels.

"We're watching for smoking on the premises, on the mountain," he said. "We've had a few people smoking on the lifts even though we don't allow smoking. We can't condone it. The risk is too high."

Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, though, said it hasn't noticed much effect, saying golfers are still keeping their tee times.

Whistler Sport Legacies is also reporting minimal impact, as president and CEO Roger Soane said programs like the Rolling Thunder program at Whistler Sliding Centre is not offered Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so that was a mitigating factor. All rides planned for July 6, however, did go forward as planned. Traffic at Whistler Olympic Park was also average, he reported.

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