Litter-ally a drag - NDRC distances itself from discarded tyres at Vernamfield
The executive of the National Drag Racing Circuit (NDRC) is distancing itself from recent television reports of tyres offering a breeding ground for mosquitoes at Vernamfield in Clarendon.
Executive member of the NDRC, Stephen Gunter, said, "We only use the tyres for one thing and that is to demarcate the return lane at Vernamfield, and we don't have them anywhere else. Those tyres extend in a straight line for just over a quarter mile from the staging area just behind the start line to the end of the course at the finish line."
The NDRC uses about a half-mile stretch of the disused World War 2 airstrip. One section is dedicated to preparation of cars participating in the race meet. The actual track is about a quarter mile long, with additional space required for race cars to gradually come to a stop after crossing the finish line. The track has two lanes, with two wide buffer zones on either side of the track.
Part of the buffer zone on the right side of the track is dedicated to a return lane, along which all drivers who have completed their run drive slowly back to pick up their results slip and park in the preparation area. This is the side that has the row of tyres.
Gunter said, in recent times, the NDRC became concerned about the potential impact of the tyres as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. "Recently, we have started strapping them together with industrial-strength strapping, similar to that used in shipping. We stack used or defective car or SUV tyres about three high, strap them together, and place soil in them so that water does not accumulate," Gunter said
He said that in light of the health threat, the NDRC is doing its part to keep people safe. "We're aware that there is a concern that tyres may offer a breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially in light of Chik V and now the Zika threat. It is just the responsible thing to do," Gunter said.
He also indicated that the NDRC recently embarked on its 'Going Green' campaign. They reached out to the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET) and signed on to the 'Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica' campaign. In addition, Gunter says they forged partnerships with Southern Parks & Markets (SPM), and Recycling Partners of Jamaica to ensure the proper collection and disposal of garbage and the recycling of plastic bottles used at events. He says the JRDC has also backed this up with people on the ground collecting garbage, in addition to posting garbage bags at regular intervals along the stretch of the race track for persons to use.
"We have dedicated bags, provided by JET, for plastic only. A team of about 20 or so people that we employ picks up whatever garbage that is generated, then we have Recycle Jamaica come in and pick up this plastic and do what they do with it. We also pay Southern Parks and Markets to pick up each bag of regular garbage generated," Gunter said.
He said the reports of tyres littering the airstrip are disconcerting, especially since the NDRC is convinced they had nothing to do with that, having staged their most recent Vernamfield event five weeks ago.
"We are concerned about the report. It has come to our attention that there was a party which was staged recently. We don't know if it was authorised, but during and after the party, tyres were scattered all over Vernamfield," Gunter said, adding that scattered tyres cannot help the NDRC run a meet. "Something like that doesn't suit us because, apart from our concern for the environment, any tyres that are placed there should not be done in such a way that it impedes the proper operation of a race meet," Gunter said.
Still, Gunter says despite the fact that they did not do it, the NDRC is willing to pick up the pieces. "We have a team going down to Vernamfield today (Friday) to take up those tyres and, if possible, utilise them in the way that we would on a race day - that is to say strapped together and filled with soil.
"We are now taking these steps because somebody has to be proactive and it fits in with our programme of being environmentally responsible. And, hopefully, the persons who were responsible for using Vernamfield unauthorised will see that is a problem and contact us so that we can guide them through the process of using Vernamfield in a responsible manner," Gunter said.
The NDRC has, so far, staged three meets at Vernamfield this year. Apart from the ones that form barriers, no other tyres are left behind at the facility after a drag racing meet. Racers use specialist tyres called 'slicks', which offer improved traction during races. Slicks are highly prized and are not left anywhere.