Ah, the sounds of silence.
Well, not quite silence - there's nothing silent about cars and motorcycles racing around a track.
But the complaints about the noise emanating from the New Jersey Motorsports Park are now somewhat muffled. The letters to the editor about the noise have stopped. And TrackRacket, the grassroots group that was formed to fight the high noise levels at the track, seems to have made peace with NJMP officials.
The problem would not have occurred in the first place if Millville officials had been more proactive about the noise issue. The complaints began as soon as the track opened.
In 2009, when Michelle Post, the founder of TrackRacket, took a decibel meter, a boombox and a recording to a City Commission meeting and turned up the volume to the generous 80 decibels allowed by city ordinance, a Press of Atlantic City reporter described the sound as "piercingly loud." But the city commissioners just ignored Post - and the problem.
Complaints grew - and spread. Depending on the wind, atmospheric conditions and, of course, what was going on at the track, people from as far away as Estell Manor and Port Norris complained about the nonstop drone. Even the park's loudspeaker was audible from miles away.
But now, a settlement reached in a 2011 lawsuit filed by TrackRacket has, rather remarkably, turned the situation around.
There is a Sound Committee made up of NJMP officials and members of TrackRacket. Race start times and end times have been altered, particularly for unmuffled engines. The public-address system has been modified. And the other day, Post told the South Jersey Times: "NJMP has been very receptive to our concerns and is working with us to address every viable remedy to reduce the problem of noise."
Wow. That's quite a turnaround.
No doubt, there are still some days when the park's neighbors experience more noise from the park than they would like.
But Post and park officials deserve much praise for their work to minimize the problem. NJMP posts a "Good Neighbors Policy" on its website detailing the efforts it has made - and reminding groups that rent the park of the rules. And residents can even file a noise complaint by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a voicemail at 856-327-7244.
Working out this problem is important - for neighbors, the park and the entire region. The NJMP has the potential to be an economic boon for the area. But the noise problem was untenable. Something had to give. And now, thanks to TrackRacket's lawsuit and track officials acknowledging their responsibility, positive change is in the air.