16 March 2022

Community driven fight to return Yass' Marchmont Racecourse to its former glory

| Max O'Driscoll
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Left to right: Marchmont Racecourse Trust members Bill Heuston and Ben Maguire, Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman and Racecourse Trust members Fleur Flanery, Cathy Bennett and Eamon Burke. Photo: Wendy Tuckerman.

The Yass Marchmont Racecourse Reserve used to be a regular race fixture. These days it’s used once a year – for the Yass Picnic Races, although in 2022, rain saw the event cancelled, meaning Marchmont would go unused for the second year running.

Officially formed last August, the Marchmont Racecourse Trust wants to return the racecourse to its former glory and bring it up to meet modern demands.

In November last year, Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman announced $150,000 in funding would go towards redeveloping the reserve.

Trust president Ben Maguire said the initial grant will be used to clean up the site and develop a master plan for the reserve. That master plan will follow community consultation with the main user groups and interested community members in May.

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“Racing will remain front and centre,” Mr Maguire said. “Its current use is only for racing, so everything we do won’t interrupt that and, in fact, everything we do will support it.

“The other message is that we’d love to see the grounds used all the other 364 days of the year by the community for sport and recreation, and because racing is there, it lends itself very nicely to horse sports.

“We’re asking all the equine clubs to come to the community consultation and give us their needs and their input into what the design should look like.”

The Trust also hopes the racecourse could one day hold major events and functions and therefore want to ensure amenities at the facility align with modern expectations.

Yass Valley Business Chamber vice president Jim Hutton said the Chamber “very much welcome the development proposal”.

“At the moment, we have a largely underdeveloped wasteground of what used to be a racecourse, that’s not doing a lot and there’s one event a year,” Mr Hutton said.

“That’s a bit of real estate that I think that everyone feels could be better utilised.”

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Mr Hutton hopes a redeveloped racecourse could bring a new group of people to the Yass Valley and lead to business growth opportunities. He also welcomed the Trust pursuing public consultation to discover what local people want.

“Bearing in mind, a statistic I’ve heard is that there are more horses per square kilometre in the Yass Valley than there are in any other areas of Australia – the highest density of horse population,” he said.

“But, there are very few events to allow horses to compete and interact. So, I think it would be fantastic if there were more events of all sorts.”

Mr Hutton believes in a dream scenario, the racecourse could put the Yass Valley on the map as a horse tourism destination.

“People will come and use the accommodation, the bars, clubs and restaurants. They’ll shop locally and (use) everything from the local garages fixing horse trailers right through to the wineries,” he said.

“We don’t have many events in the Yass Valley and if we have an events centre like this, I think it will be a fantastic focus.”

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Announcing the news in November, Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman said that the Trust has a “wonderful vision for the facility”.

“I certainly share their ambition to develop a multi-purpose facility that the community can use year-round for outdoor recreation and equine sports,” Ms Tuckerman said.

“This is fantastic news for the people of Yass Valley as the flow-on effects of these improvements will reach every corner of the Yass Valley – which already enjoys visitors for the Picnic Races but imagine events for campdraft, polocrosse, equestrian and more – all staying in local hotels, eating at local cafes and shopping in local stores,” Mrs Tuckerman said.

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