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Last checkered flag

Two young girls, preschoolers at best, sat together playing with brightly colored toys. Nearby, a young father cradling an infant in his arms stood talking with a bearded man nearly twice his age. Families kicked back in lawn chairs underneath tents, coolers stocked and barbecue grills smoldering.

A beautiful day at the park? No, a beautiful, if somewhat bittersweet day at Green Acres motocross track in Marion.

Sunday’s races were the last ones ever at the track; owners Ron and Shelli Hardey announced a few months ago it was time for them to retire after a 25-year run.

They got good weather and an even better turnout, as motocross families took advantage of a final chance to experience a track many of them said was their longtime favorite. The Hardeys carved a beauty of a course behind their house, never more compelling than when the thick dust picked up the glow of the late afternoon sun, creating mystical layers of ghostly riders snaking back and forth, up and down, along the undulating trails.

I think it’s a safe guess that Green Acres probably wasn’t ever just about having a motocross track. It was more about what happened there, both on the track and off it. A generation of youngsters that started on those cute little 50cc cycles have become young adults, and family treks to Green Acres were as eagerly anticipated as family holiday gatherings. There’s little doubt the Hardeys have gained a lot of surrogate nephews and nieces from the experience.

Most local folks probably know Green Acres best by sound, not sight; I’m certain many of those who found the roar of motorcycles on a Sunday morning to be unwelcome will be relieved to know it’s closing.

As for me, I’m sad to see it go. Green Acres and motocross has brought thousands of people to Marion over the quarter-century it’s been here. Those folks have dropped a lot of change with merchants in both Marion and Hillsboro. Many of those families stayed in campers at the reservoir and county lake on race weekends. In a county focused on luring tourists and their wallets, losing these events is a loss, indeed.

But it’s what happens around the track that’s a bigger loss. Some families bond over table games, others over flag football or scouting; some bond amidst the roar of engines and the smell of dust and exhaust. Granted, the motocross circuit and dirt bikes aren’t going away, and local families can still be involved in the sport together.

It’s hard to explain, but I guess you really have to have been out to a race at Green Acres to understand what I mean. I’ve been to two of them, and they’ve been two of my most favorite days as a reporter since I first set foot in this office 40 years ago. It’s difficult to watch something that seems so good disappear from the local landscape.

For 25 years, the Hardeys have invested large parts of their hearts and lives not in Green Acres, but in the people who’ve come there. They’ve earned that checkered flag that leads to retirement, and all the good wishes that come with it.

— david colburn

Last modified Oct. 8, 2015

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