Opponents, supporters at odds over racetrack proposal in Jefferson County

WHITE HALL — A standing room only crowd turned out at the White Hall Public Library Thursday evening to voice support and opposition for a permit application for a proposed mud racing track in Jefferson County.

Opponents cited the potential for noise, dust, litter, drinking, fighting and lower property values during the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality sponsored hearing, while supporters said none of the fears will materialize during five racing dates each year.

George Huntley, doing business as Wildman Race Track, has proposed developing the dirt track at 9322 Huntley Trail, Pine Bluff. He said he was optimistic following the hearing, saying two out of every three speakers spoke in favor of the track.

The ADEQ Air Division is reviewing a permit application submitted by Huntley.

George Petray of Stewart Road who said he is the president of a hunting club that leases land adjacent to the proposed track site, raised concerns about traffic, litter and a gate he said has been repeatedly damaged.

Dawn Dyer of Samuel Road drew a round of applause when she questioned an estimated 100-300 vehicles on the dirt road on race days as “understated.”

Kay Lawrence of Murdock Road said she was “one million percent opposed to this,” citing “big trucks, fighting, drinking, the fire danger, litter and lower property values.”

She drew boos and applause by submitting a petition signed by 79 individuals opposed to the track.

James Browning countered that the opponents overstated their objections, noting races would be held one Saturday a month from April to October, or five to six race days a year.

Another hunting club member noted the turkey season opens in April and Huntley’s property is a poor site for a track.

Two proponents cited the economic impact of the track, with one of the two drawing laughter and applause when he said, “Don’t blame us because you can’t kill a turkey.”

Mike Porta, ADEQ Air Division assistant chief, at the start of the hearing said he was extending the period for written comments by a week. The comments may be submitted to Mike Porta, Air Division, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, Ark. 72118, by 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 5.