CAIRO — Young bikers are revving their engines for an upcoming event intended to promote academics among motocross athletes, but nearby residents say they're concerned about the implications.
Raymond Woods, co-owner of Georgia Practice Facility, appeared before the Grady County commission to request a variance on ordinance-restricted hours of operation and an extension of the noise limit times to 20-minute intervals for a three-day period in order for the event to take place, but he was met by stiff resident resistance.
"We're not for a three-day event by any means," said Cary Bishop, one of several nearby residents who spoke at the hearing. "The hours of operation, as far as I'm concerned, could be cut down even less than the ones that you do now."
Current hours of operation on Fridays allow GPF to operate from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and would require commissioner-approved extensions for the expanded schedule of events, though Woods said there would not be any races after dark on any day.
No date has been set for when the commission will vote on Woods' request, but commission chair LaFaye Copeland said such an action is not likely to take place before August.
Woods said that he believes the event, which could feature as many as 40 bikes running at once, already may be able to meet the noise requirements, but that he wanted the extra protection anyway.
"At the time that (the noise variances) were designed, the motorcycles were way louder than they are now," he said. "They are much quieter."
That explanation didn't make much sense to Bishop, who said he constantly hears the revving of the bikes at GPF and is opposed to the event taking place.
Bishop and other nearby residents argued that Woods' proposal would just be the first in a series of events which they say will cause them headaches.
"We're not reaping the benefits out of your motorcycle site at all," he said. "As a matter of fact, it's probably downgraded my property value and all of the people around me."
Bishop said motocross riders should instead look to host the event someplace else.
"The event could go anywhere else," Woods said, "but it wouldn't be me running it, and it wouldn't be part of what I do and it wouldn't be part of Grady County."
"That's fine with me," Bishop retorted.
No one in the audience identified themselves when Copeland asked if anyone at the hearing was a nearby resident who was in favor of the event.
If approved by the commissioners, the event will be held from Oct. 4 to 6 at GPF and will be produced with support from the American Motorcycle Association and OnTrack Schools, an educational organization specializing in extreme athletes.
Having been in the motocross business for nearly 20 years, Woods said he's seen kids fall through the cracks — something he hopes to avoid by holding the event.
"Just like any other sport, there's not a whole lot of athletes who make it to that upper level," Woods said. "We want to give those ones that don't an opportunity to do something else and be part of a community."
The three-day event would feature an educational curriculum including guest speakers, seminars and classes.
Amateur riders as young as 6 who are deemed to excel in both the dirt track and in the classroom would have the opportunity to earn money for college or trade school.
More importantly to the county as a whole, Woods said the visitors are likely to spend money in the community while they're in town.
"For every one of the people who come there will be restaurants, stores, food, whatever it takes for them to get through those three days," Woods said.
Other possible activities during the event could include an after dark country music concert and pit bike races designed to increase public awareness about motocross.
Woods said that entry to the event, which would be open to the public, would likely come at a discount to county residents.
"We could see 500 people there or I could see 5,000," he said. "It depends on how we promote it and how we get past this very first part."