Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guam Raceway still faces uncertain future

Guam Raceway still faces uncertain future

Tuesday, 12 January 2010 03:22
by William Martin | Variety News Staff

The fate of the Guam International Raceway and Jose and Hermenia Off Road Park is still up in the air as discussions continue between the Department of Defense and park officials.

The local community has been in an uproar regarding possible plans – outlined in the recently released Environmental Impact Statement, which assesses possible ramifications of Guam’s upcoming military buildup – to acquire additional, non DOD land for the construction of a training complex on eastern coastal lands off Route 15 in Yigo.

The land in question contains the raceway, as well as closely held ancestral sites Marbo and Pagat Caves, also including some privately owned land.

Last Friday, park officials began talks with the DOD on the future of the park, according to Henry Simpson, president of the Guam Racing Federation and general manager of the raceway.

He said park officials remained steadfast in talks that if the DOD is in need of the land, a new raceway must be built for Guam.

“If they still want it and aren’t willing to build us a new park,” he said. “They’re going to have to take it through imminent domain.”

Simpson said the difficulty in finding a new park lies in locating an area far enough away from the general public that noise generated from racing activities won’t become a nuisance to those residing nearby – a quality the current site possesses. The land was licensed to the federation for a period of 21 years nearly a decade ago by the Chamorro Land Trust, Simpson said.

He estimates some $7 million in cash has been put into the raceway, not including some $5 million in volunteer efforts by the non-profit federation, adding that raceway officials are also willing to neighbor the training complex if possible.

The third in a series of DOD-hosted public hearings on the matter took place last night at the Yigo Gymnasium, during which local residents attended to make their voices heard regarding the areas in question.

Many residents took the opportunity to make impassioned testimonies about their feelings on the buildup and plans for DOD to acquire the land.

Capt. Neil Ruggerio, public affairs officer for the Joint Guam Program Office declined comment to the Variety on the raceway’s future while attending the hearing, saying only that it was the local residents’ time to speak.

Bob Bucek, spokesman for the raceway said park personnel now plan to prepare and submit written testimony to the JGPO, and asks anyone interested in the park to do the same.

He said that while he was concerned about the raceway, the possibility of some of Guam’s historical sites is also cause for concern.

“If those areas are lost forever,” he shared. “It’s not just the people of Guam, but everybody that will lose.”

The next hearing is scheduled for today at Okkodo High School, with an open house segment from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by a public comment allotment ending at 9 p.m.

For more information regarding the statement or future related events, including an option to submit a statement about the buildup, please visit www.guambuildupeis.us.

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