THE close-knit Stony Creek community is celebrating a major milestone.
One hundred years ago, on September 14, 1910, the Stony Creek Racecourse and Recreation Reserve was gazetted.
Now a new sign on the front gate, unveiled last Tuesday in front of a dozen or so proud committee members and representatives of the Stony Creek community, records this significant event.
The land for the reserve was first surveyed back in the 1890s and the racecourse was initially ploughed by bullock team. Once established, the reserve played a major part in district life, and this has continued for 100 years.
Pony races, hack races and amateur turf races have all been enjoyed at the course. Three-day horse events – cross country, show jumping and dressage – were held there for many years, until the late 1990s, riders sometimes travelling from interstate to take part and using the experience to prepare for international competition. Local primary school students have competed in the annual Stuart’s Cup at the reserve for many years, and until recently Stony Creek Football Club held lawnmower races there each year!
The reserve is currently home to many user bodies, including the Stony Creek Racing Club, the Stony Creek Football Club, the Stony Creek Netball Club, the Meeniyan Pony Club and a new Adult Riders Club. It is enjoyed by cricketers, the centre is leased out for grazing and a very successful Go Karts business makes use of a section of the reserve’s 90 acres (36 plus hectares).
Of particular pride to the Stony Creek community is the fact that the reserve, which is on crown land, is run entirely by a committee of volunteers, including three representatives from the racing club, two from the football club, one each from the pony and netball clubs and two community representatives.
The current president is Douglas Hanks and the secretary is Janine Bullock. It was Janine who organised the smart new maroon sign for the front gate. At the unveiling, she invited Paul Boag, president of Stony Creek Racing Club and someone whose family has a long and proud history of involvement in the reserve, to say a few words.
Paul noted that his grandfather had been a butcher at Stony Creek at the turn of the last century and had supplied a horse and dray to construct the original racecourse.
He said that the success of the reserve was a reflection of the huge amount of voluntary labour which has gone into the complex over the last 100 years.
Kevin Dempsey, who was secretary of the reserve committee for many years and also treasurer for a period, was another special guest at the unveiling.
“I’ve cleaned lots of gutters here in my time!” he laughed.
Kevin said that he was “proud to be here to honour the foresight and vision of those who have gone before”.
He said he could recall the reserve when there was only a dirt and gravel track, just wide enough for a T-model Ford and a few kids on bikes.
“In the early days there was only a footy ground, a grandstand and a tin shed. There was no water and no conveniences. We should appreciate what we have now!” he said.
“It’s a pleasure to see it all looking so bright and wonderful,” agreed Daisy Helms, a stalwart of the Stony Creek community.
“I was born in Meeniyan but have lived in Stony Creek all my life,” she said. “I saw my first footy match here at the reserve in 1935 and can recall playing netball in the mud! Lots of the netballers married Stony Creek footballers. My heart is here in Stony Creek.”
Kevin Dempsey, Daisy Helms and another long-time Stony Creek local, former reserve committee member Bill Helms, then unveiled the new sign, to much applause.
With Stony Creek Racing Club an important part of the Stony Creek complex, the racing club has decided to celebrate the centenary at one of its meets this year.
Club chief executive officer Ralph Gallagher said the plan is for some of the local schoolchildren to collect an oral history of the racecourse from parents and grandparents and have these accounts recorded in a book to be launched at the race day on December 28.
Much of the history of the reserve is known through the minute books kept by committee members down the years. Unfortunately, some of the minute books are missing, with details of the years 1940 to 1985 particularly sketchy. Members of the reserve’s management committee are keen to retrieve the missing book or books so that all the events that have occurred at their reserve, so important to the Stony Creek community, can be fully documented and a long, proud history justly celebrated. Anyone who finds a missing minute book is asked to return it to the reserve or contact the secretary, Janine Bullock, tel. 0428 647 511.