MOUNT VERNON — Pacemakers Dragstrip has been in operation just outside of Mount Vernon since the mid-1950s. Back then, the race track was bordered by a railroad track, now long abandoned. Over the years, the dragstrip’s configuration has changed so that part of the railroad track area began to be utilized as space for drag racer trailers, once the metal tracks and wooden cross-ties were removed.
When Larry Nelson purchased the property in 1991, he leased from Conrail the strip of railroad land stretching from Kenny Road to Thayer Road. To make use of part of that land as pit area for racing teams, Nelson bulldozed the raised railroad bed to bring the railroad right of way down to the same level as the dragstrip. This allowed racing trailers to back into the pit area, extending into the old railroad bed.
Meeting with the board of commissioners Monday morning, Nelson submitted a written proposal asking for permission to move, at his own expense, the bike trail to the southern side of the county’s right of way, which varies from 65 feet on the northeast side of Nelson’s property, to about 100 feet on the southwest.
Nelson would then lease the northern portion of the right of way, consisting of about 75 percent to 80 percent of the strip of land adjacent to the dragstrip, for use as part of his pit area. He would fence off the rerouted path from his pit area with barbed wire and T-bars. The section of the railroad bed between Pacemakers and Kinney Road would also be flattened, Nelson said. The flattening of the bed, combined with parked vehicles, should make it impossible for spectators to watch races for free from the trail.
Nelson said he was eager to work with the commissioners and that he was in no way opposed to the bike trail.
“We’re not here to be a pain,” Nelson said, adding that he just hoped to find a way to slightly reroute the trail to preserve the current operation of his business, which he described as more a labor of love than a money-making proposition.
The commissioners said they would read Nelson’s proposal and discuss it among themselves, after which time they would call a followup meeting.