Motocross track proposed

June 22, 2012 12:41 pm


By Bill Rautenstrauch

The Observer

Union County’s Mount Emily Recreation Area Motorized Use Advisory Committee heard a proposal Tuesday for grant-funded construction of a motocross track, but decided to feel out public opinion before going ahead with the project.

Cody Vavra, a motocross enthusiast and formerly the manager of the county-owned recreation area north of La Grande, presented the committee with a proposal Tuesday for .6 mile track located across Fox Hill Road from MERA’s main staging area.

He proposed start of construction in the summer of 2013, with site preparation to start immediately.

Vavra said he thinks the track, covering 7.5 acres, would see significant motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle use, and create economic activity in the county. 

“I would expect it to be the most-used site on the entire park. That’s just the way motocross tracks are,” he said.

Union County bought the 3,700 acre MERA property from Forest Capital Partners in 2008 and made it into a multi-use recreation area open to all.

Now in its fourth year as a public facility, MERA offers a wide range of motorized and non-motorized, off-highway recreational opportunities. It’s a popular destination for ATV and motorcycle riders, mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders, berry pickers, and more.

Vavra said the MERA master plan adopted in 2010 identifies a motocross track as an allowable use on the property. The track he has in mind would be designed to challenge all levels of riders, and would feature double and triple jumps, whoops, table-tops and straight sections. He said the track would follow natural terrain, incorporating the slopes for drop offs and step-ups, and berms cut into the sides of undulations.

“Obstacles will be designed in a manner to offer options for all riders,” Vavra said. As an example, he said some double jumps could be built with an up ramp, then a gap, then a table top before the second ramp.

“If a rider comes up short he can flat-land on the table top. As he gets more confident he can jump the entire obstacle and land on the down ramp,” he said.

Vavra said an existing parking area adjacent to the MERA’s youth track would be improved and expanded to about three acres in size.  Another feature, Vavra said, would be a vaulted restroom at the northeast corner of the parking lot, close to Fox Hill Road.

Vavra said an easement would be pursued for access from Fox Hill Road to the southeast corner of the track. It would be used for construction, maintenance and emergency response, and would be locked at all other times. 

Also, a short trail would be constructed and signed allowing riders to cross Fox Hill Road to the main staging area.

According to Vavra’s proposal, the track would be built and maintained by Union County, but funded with a combination of grants, volunteer labor and donated materials. Vavra said that when construction is completed, routine maintenance for jump faces and berms would be done by volunteers as needed. 

“Over time, maintenance needs will be minimal as the jump faces and berms pack down,” he said.

As the committee heard the proposal, questions came up about concerns of residents living nearby. Vavra said the nearest dwelling is north of the site with rolling terrain, vegetation and trees creating barriers to block out noise, dust and visual impacts.

Union County Commissioner Steve McClure, at the meeting in an ex-officio capacity, said concerns about impacts should be thoroughly explored before a decision is made on whether to build the track.

“Whatever we do will go through a public process,” he said.

Committee member Milo Hibbert said he thinks the proposal will stir a good deal of community debate.

“Of all the things we’ve done so far, I think this has the most potential for interest, both pro and con,” Hibbert said.

The committee decided to start gathering input from Fox Hill Road residents, then bring the item back to the table for more talk during the July meeting.