Building a BMX Track Would Be a Step in the Right Direction
by Alan Ferdman
Over the past few weeks our local news media have, again, alerted us to the presence and dangers of illegal automobile and motorcycle street racing. In addition, the problem is with some individual’s heavy right foot, resulting in unsafe displays of high speed. When repeated often enough, luck runs out, causing another needless tragedy.
Unfortunately, new and existing laws will not mitigate the problem. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere and most often our sheriff’s department will just be there to write the report. So, what can be done?
The first thing is to realize the problem of illegal street racing is not new. Growing up as a teenager in the San Fernando Valley, I remember the weeknight drag races on Forest Lawn Drive. While it was said to occur regularly, such a large crowd participated that the only way the races were stopped was by repaving Forest Lawn with curves added.
We should also realize that not all our young adults will gravitate to sports like baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer. There will be a group who will have an affinity for motors, vehicles and speed.
I was a part of the gear head group. From the time I was 13 I dreamed of motorcycles. I tried to build a motor bike by taking a bicycle frame and a steel plate to a local welder. I was able to mount an old lawn mower engine, but with the skills and tools available to me at the time, was never able to construct a good drive and clutch mechanism. It was probably a good thing, because I did not have good brakes to stop the bike either. When I arrived at driving age, I discovered the San Fernando Drag Strip and came to know some of our local drag racing heroes. For example, there was Tony Nancy who had an upholstery shop on Woodman Avenue and was one of the first to champion rear engine dragsters. Also a regular at San Fernando Raceway, I remember, was cigar smoking Dick Landy and his over 100 mph quarter-mile ‘61 Ford.
The point is, you could bring and race any vehicle. My friends would all run their cars to see how fast they would go and there was always a matchup between two of us. There was no real need to race on the street.
My yearning for riding a two-wheeled motorized vehicle became a reality when Roger, a friend of mine, sat me on a ‘49 panhead, rigid frame Harley, slapped it into gear, and off I went for my first ride. I was hooked, and about a year later I purchased my first motorcycle — a used 305 Honda Superhawk.
Naturally, I started riding the bike to and from work. Working third shift, I got off work in the morning and on one rainy day, cold and dripping wet, I stopped into Van Nuys Honda on Victory Boulevard to warm up. It was there I met Mike Gibbons, Bruce Fare and John Harrison, and ultimately became a member of the American Motorcycle Association, District 37, Competition Club named the 4 Aces. At that time, club members participated in TT (Tourist Trophy, smooth track) racing in the summer and desert racing in the winter, with a few racing at Ascot Park as well.
Surprisingly, that is what inspired my wife and me to move to the Santa Clarita Valley. With half a dozen 4 Ace members living on Delight Street in Saugus, now Canyon Country, we found ourselves in the area almost every weekend. The area had a lot of garages filled with race cars being readied for Saugus Speedway, plus dirt bikes, dune buggies and all forms of motorized projects. It was a time when I could get up at 4 in the morning, drive three or four hours to race a 100-mile “hare and hound” on a dirt bike, drive three or four hours home and still get up on Monday morning — stiff and sore, but ready to go to work. Times have sure changed.
My rationale for telling this story is to remind some of us, and inform others, just how much Santa Clarita has changed. Today, there are far fewer opportunities for segments of our society to participate in activities of their choosing. There are no longer races at Saugus Speedway, Indian Dunes no longer exists, and off-road riding within the city is prohibited. To the south, San Fernando Drag Strip closed many years ago, and more recently, the Antelope Valley Drag Strip and Motocross Track also closed to make room for additional aggregate mining. Over the last 20 years Santa Clarita has concentrated on purchasing additional open space for more bicycle and hiking trails, and while those activities are of great value, they are not the total solution for all of our residents.
Santa Clarita City Management needs to start listening to the public and get far more creative in planning and implementing recreational facilities. We have residents who would like to see other sports, such as Cricket, be supported by Parks and Recreation. The idea of providing our residents with a BMX (bicycle motocross) track has been on the Parks Master Plan for the last 10 years. Residents have come before the City Council numerous times in support, yet the City Council has taken no action to accommodate their requests.
I started this column talking about the problems related to illegal street racing. Telling a young adult “NO” is like challenging them to do the opposite. We need to give them an alternative. Estimates for the Bermite Cleanup timeline is now mid-2018. I would propose this area be used for a light industrial park and a fairground, including a BMX track, a motocross track and possibly a 1/8-mile drag strip. I believe providing controlled and managed facilities for those who choose these activities wouold be far safer than forcing them on our streets.
But, don’t worry about me. I may still be a gear head, but being a little more mature and having gained the knowledge that crashing hurts a lot, I will not be seen racing on the street. At the same time, it does not mean I still don’t get the euphoric feeling when my Harley accelerates and I hear the motor’s increasing sound when I occasionally open the throttle while going up a freeway onramp.
My dream of a Santa Clarita fairground is a long way away, so in the meantime, the City of Santa Clarita building a BMX track would be a step in the right direction.
**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of SCV Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**