Too many racers, too little space. If you’re a hard core racer, pro or amateur, you surely know how often sports car organizations battle to get some track time at road courses. Not to mention that the costs for renting such racing venues become steeper every year—and that’s if you actually manage to find a time when it’s not occupied by other racing groups. And that, fellow racers, is exactly the sentiment of the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) New England Region—and the reason they’ve been trying to set the plans for their own motorsports park in motion for a few years now.
Finally, after a very long analysis and much deliberation, the Palmer Planning Board was finally given approval to develop the Palmer Motorsports Park last December. The park is a 658-acre site on Whiskey Hill, Thorndike Village in Palmer, Massachusetts.
The first plans for the park was first proposed in 2006. A limited liability corporation, NER Investments LLC, was formed by SCCA’s New England Region to build and operate its very own club-based motorsports facility. It took a while (more than a year after the proposal was announced to the public) for NER Investments LLC to finally nail a date when it can discuss a notice of intent with the Conservation Committee. This meeting is a requisite by the Wetlands Protection Act.
For several months, NER Investments LLC worked hard both to engineer the project, and more importantly, to inform the people in Palmer of the impact and the benefits of having such a facility in their homeland. Issues such as track design, traffic, environmental effects, wetlands, storm management, endangered species, sound, and driveway design has all been addressed. The group has been really sensitive to the environmental impacts that the facility could cause, so they designed it in a way that less than 4% of the property would be paved. Only 15% of the 658-acre land would be developed. The remainder will be untouched.
The group’s hard work is finally bearing fruit: its members were able to design a 2.14-mile track totally hidden from view and meets all bylaws. It’s literally the club’s very private nook—the track is about 3,000 feet from the nearest residential village.
What makes it different from other track courses, and perhaps what got them the Golden Ticket (read: a permit), is that the facility would be strictly club-based. This means that the competitions held in the track are run by clubs for amateur car racers. The group’s Project Director, Dick Patullo, said “In club racing there are no traffic jams, no RV convoys. On a big weekend, we might see 200 competitors and a total of 1,000 people.” Patullo said that most events would be smaller and would have only a few dozen participants. The group also pointed out that the proposed park will prevent residential constructions and will keep the open space intact. The park is also estimated to generate approximately $50,000 every year in property tax income.
The park will have a paved “road course” that has left- and right-hand turns that closely follow the existing terrain. The race course will form a loop that measures about 2 miles in length and 40 feet in width.
The park is anticipated to be opened in 2010. I’m sure pretty much every racer who knows about this is wishing that they’re members of the New England Region of SCAA right now.