Council, West End Thunder agree on plan to save races

The West End Thunder drag racing club may be on track for more years of drag racing in Forks. Possibly also on another race track, too.

After almost 90 minutes of back and forth discussion, leaders of the West End Thunder drag racing club and the City Council came to agreement on the points to make in a letter to be sent by the City of Forks to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and to the office of Sen. Patty Murray.

The discussion centered around what plan of action to take to extend the life of legal, on-track drag racing in Forks after this summer. This year is the last in a five-year, non-renewable extension the FAA gave to the club in the months following their first season at the Forks Municipal Airport in 2005.

Earlier this year a representative of Murray’s office held a meeting with West End Thunder at the Olympic Natural Resources Center. She presented five possible directions for the club to take in their negotiations with the FAA. One was to stop racing entirely, another was to close the Forks airport, another to find a new place to race.

Beyond shutting down for good, a choice never brokered since, viable options all had a high price in dollars and volunteer time.

By the end of the meeting the club and the council, plus Mayor Bryon Monohon, City Attorney/Planner Rod Fleck and Treasurer Dan Leinan all came to agreement on a set plan for their next communication to the FAA.

The points to be made in the letter, which may also be sent to the FAA as a council resolution, include:
• West End Thunder will investigate the practicality, legality and costs of constructing a new drag strip on City of Forks airport land north of the existing runways, which could have a price tag well over $1 million;
• The club is asking for an additional five-year extension to their agreement with the FAA to allow about 15 weekend days of warm weather racing each year on the airport runways while the new track idea is explored;
• The letter will also question if the federal agency can’t find a way to keep racing as is by allowing the city to set aside 15 days (at the airport) that is for the betterment of community.

The council unanimously approved the plan.

Councilman John Hillcar pointed out following the discussion that the racers who come to Forks are what he called “participant” racers who generally cannot afford to take part in higher levels of drag racing at tracks in Bremerton and elsewhere in the Northwest. He said racers who come to Forks boost the economy and are drawn for the good times at the races plus the chance to roar down the strip 10 to 15 times rather than maybe twice at the bigger tracks.
Border Patrol

Two representatives of the Border Patrol attended the council meeting. Towards the end of the meeting they spoke to the council and set up a date at the Monday night, Aug. 8 council meeting to address the council. They said they would bring a presentation explaining their mission in the region, what their duties are and other information, and address concerns about their patrols in the Forks area. The Border Patrol has a base in Port Angeles and is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Monohon said the Forks Human Rights Committee, a group that provides support to Hispanic residents on the West End and elsewhere who feel their civil rights have been violated, are scheduled to address the council at a meeting to be held later in August.

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