In many respects, the demise of Gordon Park Speedway is a sad loss for Columbia County and the CSRA. Various owners for nearly three decades have tried to make the Grovetown park a viable auto-racing venue, with only limited success.
Now that it's closed, however, it should stay that way.
Retired Col. George Bryan took the most ambitious shot at running the track, pumping around $1 million into renovations before reopening in 2001 as Silver Eagle Speedway. His single season came with lots of strings attached, however; the location of the track - near homes and next to a prison hospital - is in an area where it clearly doesn't belong. So county officials, as a condition of allowing Bryan's major renovations, rezoned the property while slapping tough restrictions on its operation.
A bout with cancer sidetracked Bryan, and the track never lived up to its promise. The bank foreclosed, and later sold the track to Edward Dinkins of Evans, who then sold it to William "Catfish" Reese.
Reese ran just a single season, drawing a lawsuit when county officials contend he failed to abide by restrictions on the track. The track stayed shut down last year.
This year William Goolsby - who operates Modoc Speedway in McCormick County - worked out a deal to take over Gordon Park. Goolsby wanted the sound limits raised before reopening the track. County officials were willing to bend, though not as far as Goolsby wanted. So he walked away.
Reese says he won't open unless the lawsuit is cleared up; county officials don't trust him to obey the rules. So the track sits empty.
What now? The ideal outcome would be for the track to be bulldozed, perhaps for residential development; Grovetown is one of the community's hottest housing markets. While racing has a long history in our community, and losing the area's only track would be a shame, the Gordon Park site just doesn't work any more.
Perhaps if investors would come forward to build a track in a more-rural area, with easier access to Interstate 20, racing could make a successful return.
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