Owensville RC Club members and their scaled-down dirt-track race cars have a new, permanent home.
The club had been set up temporarily in an area of the Tri-County Fairgrounds designated for 4-H animals while the members worked on approval from the City of Bishop for a spot at the park. After objections were filed by residents near the park, the club withdrew its application and Jim Tatum, CEO of the Tri-County Fairgrounds stepped up with a solution: just under an acre of land on the north end of the fairgrounds, facing North Sierra Highway near the Bishop Veterinary Hospital.
The deal was finalized Feb. 4 and the following Monday, club members started cleaning up and preparing the site. Offers of help came immediately: Bishop Waste is providing Porta Potties; Western Nevada Supply pitched in with irrigation materials; and various individuals and groups came forward with heavy equipment to clear the site and prepare the tracks.
“People have been very generous,” said Ed Merchant, a 30-year radio-controlled car enthusiast and club member. “I think they felt bad about how the City Park plan went down.”
The new home for Owensville should be ready within the next few weeks as the temporary quarters will have to convert back into stock corrals in the spring.
According to Merchant, the new plan includes tracks for 1/10 and 1/8 cars and a picnic area, appropriate for a group as enthusiastic about barbecues as they are the cars. Once the track is built and the site ready, the club will operate very much like it always has, with one exception: members will pay $5 for use of the facility; non-members, $7; and anyone 18 and under, still in school, will get in free. The fee covers insurance on the operation. “This has always really been for the kids,” said Merchant.
The club has been nomadic since Rick and Ray Brooks started putting together dirt tracks wherever they could find convenient dirt in the late 1980s. Owensville had a sweet run on Department of Water and Power land off Brockman Lane. Membership grew to just under 50. The only glitch was lack of permission. “We were squatters,” said Rick Brooks. “They asked us to leave.”
The RC Club set its sights on a spot in City Park, but the degree of objections seemed insurmountable.
“We’ve been stagnant for a while,” admits Merchant, “but this should bring us back.” Merchant’s vision is that the site will be a magnet for young people, a good alternative to hanging out at the river. He talks about bringing in handicapped athlete organizations and setting up transportation from Bishop to the track.
The cars can be expensive, but entry-level systems provide as much fun and once radio car racers have the basics, a world of modifications and tinkering opens up. “This sport is addictive,” he said.
If it really is addictive, the club members are definitely pushers. Once the uninitiated are handed the controls of one of the little race cars, it’s not that hard to pull off doughnuts that would make Kyle Busch take notice.