Duncan resident Jeff Harnish is hoping for some community support as he once again tries to convince the Duncan Town Council to allow mud racing events to be held in the community.
Last December, council members voted unanimously to reject a proposal that would’ve permitted mud racing at the airport around Jan. 1. Insurance, safety plans and airport availability were all topics of concern. While Harnish said the airport had been decommissioned, some council members said they believe the U.S. Air Force still uses it on occasion.
Last week Harnish met with Interim Duncan Town Manager Philip Cushman to discuss a few possibilities — the town sponsoring mud racing, allowing the Duncan Mud Racing Association to hold events or forming a joint partnership.
Harnish believes that even if the U.S. Air Force still uses the airport, there’s enough room for occasional races, but said Cushman suggested the possibility of holding races on 10 acres of town-owned land near Duncan Elementary School.
According to The Copper Era archives, mud racing events used to be held at the Greenlee County Fairgrounds at least four times a year, but the county stopped sponsoring them about five years ago because they were losing money.
“It’s very hard to support it when you’re going $4,200 in the hole at each event,” Supervisor Ron Campbell said at an August 2016 meeting. Loss for at least one race was as high as $7,000.
The county lost money because they wouldn’t allow members of his association to run the races and insisted upon paying county employees to run it, Harnish, who owns JR’s Complete Automotive Repair & Service, said.
Using the fairgrounds again would be out of the question because some racers, who come from all over Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico, are still resentful toward the county and “no one would show up,” Harnish said.
“It was huge. For years we used to be right at 100 cars,” before the county began making demands and changing rules, Harnish said. “They want to come racing, they just don’t want to do it there.”
He’s positive mud racing would once again draw big crowds because an Apache Junction property owner recently sold his land and those racers have nowhere to compete, Harnish said.
Cushman said whenever he’s asked to consider something, he creates a checklist to determine if it’s worth presenting to the council. Is it legal? Is it safe? Is it a tradition? Will it help economically? In this instance, the first two questions are yes and he’s under the impression mud racing was quite important to the community. As for the last question, the answer is “maybe.”
The town owns 71 properties and “we might as well be using them for something,” Cushman said.
If the council likes the idea of bringing the races back, Cushman said they’d have to consider much liability they are willing to take on and if they should partner with the association.
Harnish said he just needs land and water to start back up again, he’s got the equipment necessary to tend to the property.
Mud racing is on the Duncan Town Council’s workshop agenda for 10 a.m. Dec. 3. It will be voted upon by the council at their regular meeting 5 p.m. Dec. 9.
If approved, Harnish said the first race could be held as soon as March 5.