Mill Pond Raceway Stuck In Neutral

Joe Hilderbrand has a long standing passion for all things racing, including: circle tracks, BMX, and off road courses.

A Spokane native with family ties to Deer Park, Hilderbrand eventually traveled to Southern California and Nevada, where he became involved with Lucas off-road racing, and instantly fell in love with short course off-road truck races.  Upon returning to the Spokane area, Hilderbrand was frustrated by the lack of access for racing. At present, only the Spokane County ORV park is available to the public for off-road activities. So in 2012 Hilderbrand decided to bring off-road racing to the area.

Zoning

The first hurdle to bringing his plan to fruition was finding the right location.  Off-road racing events are loud by nature, and it is estimated that they will bring in 100-500 attendees per event.  As a result of the noise level and increased traffic, Spokane County’s Building and Planning Department limits the locations available for these activities.  Currently, racetracks fall under the spectator sports facilities category, which is defined as, “Use in which athletic or other events are provided for spectators either in or out of doors.  Examples include, but are not limited to baseball stadiums, football stadiums, racetracks, and arenas.” (Spokane County Zoning Code page 300-21, Chapter 14.300).

These spectator sports are only permitted in areas zoned for light industrial or heavy industrial, areas where higher volumes of traffic and noise pollution will have a lower impact on the local community.   The zoning requirements and his ties to the area are what led Hilderbrand into Deer Park, where he entered a “lease to purchase” agreement on the Mill Pond property. This parcel falls within the Heavy Industrial Zone, and is large enough for the planned racetracks and events.

Honoring History

However, this parcel did come with a unique set of obstacles. This property is home to the historic mill pond and the Arcadia dam, as well as a wetland that supports local wildlife.  Many residents hope to preserve the history of the area, as this property played a role in the building of the community.

The City of Deer Park began to develop as the Spokane Falls and Northern Railroad was built in the late 1880’s as a means of connecting Colville to Spokane. According to historylink.org this access to the railroad, and Spokane’s need to rebuild after the great fire of 1889 helped the Crawford and Short lumber company boom, allowing them “to lead area competition in providing most of the lumber to resurrect the commercial capital of the Inland Empire.”  The clearing for this timber changed the landscape, and eventually assisted in the development of the Arcadia Orchards. Dragoon Creek, running through Deer Park, was vital to the area’s history, providing some of the water for the water powered sawmills, mill ponds, and the dams used for irrigation.

Much of this history is chronicled by the Clayton and Deer Park Historical Society’s website (http://www.cdphs.org).  The members of the Mill Pond Raceway agree that the historical areas and wetlands are important to preserve, and they have taken steps to do so.  At the suggestion of Spokane County, they hired an engineer, Randy Hahn of Hahn Engineering, to help them design their tracks. As currently designed, the race tracks would occupy the northern 30 acres of the 116 acre property, leaving the Mill Pond and Arcadia Orchard Dam untouched and available for public access during events.  Hilderbrand stated that he finds the history of the area fascinating, and encourages others to learn more about it so that they too can appreciate the area’s rich history.

Wetland Preservation

The wetland on the property creates the unique challenge of designing the tracks for racing while maintaining the integrity of the wetland and protecting the natural aquifer.  Hahn Engineering is assisting Mill Pond Raceway in the track design and filing the permit application. This is being done in order to ensure that they remain compliant with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) as well as protect this Critical Aquifer Recharge Area (CARA).

Creating a plan that is compatible with both SEPA and CARA is essential to maintaining the natural wetlands in the area, and protecting the groundwater feeding the aquifer which is used for local drinking water, making this portion of the application essential to the permit process.  Hilderbrand stated that they cannot begin races or even building the final tracks until this process has been finalized.

Stuck In Neutral

The Mill Pond Raceway is excited to complete the permit process so that they can get moving with their main goal, providing an exciting outlet for local youth.  Currently they have four tracks planned that will provide opportunities for events like: moto X, BMX racing, circle tracks and off road rally. Three of the courses will be for ages 13 and up, with the BMX track having more openings for younger competitors.  In fact, they are considering setting up a local league for BMX racing similar to the one available at Dwight Merkel Field in Spokane.

Their website, millpondraceway.com explains that they will be a “multi track off road racing venue”, providing “dirt oval, short course off road, mud drags, and a challenging obstacle competition area with lots of camping spot(s) available!”  In addition to local races, they plan on hosting several swap meets this year, one May 3rd, 4th and 5th, and again in September. You can stay up to date on the permit progress and future events at facebook.com/millpondraceway.

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