by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — France Park is gearing up for the more than 600 all-terrain vehicles and off-road motorcycles that will be blazing down its trails this weekend.
“It’s going to be phenomenal,” said Lucas Beach, superintendent of the park.
Participants and spectators will be flying in from all over the country, Beach said, including some of the racing world’s top competitors.
“There will be pro guys that race for a living, all the way down to your beginners,” said Mike Gibbs, owner of AMA MAXC, the company holding the race.
Beach said about a year ago, he was approached by a camper at the park asking if he’d ever be interested in hosting an American Motorcyclist Association race. Beach said he was open to the idea, but didn’t think about it much as the months went by.
Then earlier this spring, he was contacted by Gibbs, who expressed an interest in holding a race at the park.
“The park hasn’t seen an event like this in probably 30 years,” Beach said.
The 1,500 to 3,000 expected spectators will line up in various areas throughout the park to watch the racers make their way up rock faces and speed down hills as they make their way through the eight- to nine-mile loop of trails.
Beach said there will also be GPS coordinates on AMA MAXC’s website informing spectators of where they can watch. There will be 14 races in all, featuring a variety of age groups.
Creation of the racetrack began Tuesday afternoon, Beach said.
“They’re going to try to keep it as natural as possible,” he continued. “It’s going to be very natural, very free-flowing. It’ll be more of a woods experience than a track experience.”
Creating the track will also aid in the ongoing battle with Asian Bush Honeysuckle, an invasive plant species threatening vegetation in the park. Beach said AMA MAXC will be tearing out the honeysuckle in several areas, freeing the the trees from the resource-monopolizing shrubs.
Food will be available throughout the day at the park’s Beachfront Cafe at the swimming lake. Beach said he’s working on getting other vendors to attend as well.
Beach said if the event goes well, he could see it returning on a yearly basis.
In all, he’s looking forward to the event.
“It’s exciting to see a county park in this area be able to expose the public to national-level activities that you would normally only be able to see in places like Denver, Colo., and the West Coast,” he said. “If we can get exposure here, there are so many other things we can do. This is just the starting point.”
While he’s happy about the national turnout, Beach said he’s looking forward to providing the event for residents of Cass County.
“I want to get the public involved in Cass County,” he said. “This is a different park.”
The event begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at France Park, 4505 U.S. 24.
If you go: WHAT: ATV and dirt bike race WHEN: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday WHERE: France Park, 4505 U.S. 24 COST: $15