THE muddy debris-filled water lapped half a metre high through the concourse area, through the offices, the jockey rooms and the function room.
As the fences folded under the weight of the swelling water, logs and other flood rubble, all the Tumut Race Course Trust, the Turf Club and respected horse trainer Kerry Weir could do was look on in disbelief as the training track and the main course were torn up by the ferocity of the rising tide.
By the time the water subsided no-one thought there was much possibility of recovery. The days of racing at the picturesque club were over, it seemed.
What was under-estimated was the determination and sense of community spirit that abounded and the resolve of those involved with the historic complex.
In just seven months post the floods, the Tumut Race Course is well on its way to being transformed into a first rate racing centre with a modernised function centre and improved facilities that are now the envy of many small town turf clubs.
On Wednesday evening a crowd of almost 100 gathered on the verandah of the newly renovated outdoor function area to share in the official opening of the $400,000 stage one of the restoration process.
State MP Daryl Maguire, who was instrumental in the securing $100,000 worth of government grants for the upgrade, was tasked with the official duties and was joined by Mayor Trina Thomson, several other councillors, Trust and Turf Club committee members and those who had contributed through volunteering their labour along with others who had been a part of the restoration process.
Tumut Racecourse Reserve Trust Chair, Peter Linnegar, addressed the gathering welcoming those in attendance and thanking all those who were involved in the process.
“This building we are in now is the culmination of the aims we have held for a long time,” Mr Linnegar said. “Sometimes when you are presented with a real challenge it can turn into a real opportunity, that’s what has happened here. Who would have thought a flood could bring this opportunity.”
He spoke of the wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime chance that came courtesy of the insurance pay out from the floods, along with the financial support received from the community and private organisations coupled with state government grants, can achieve.
“The state government championed by Daryl Maguire has helped this to happen,” Mr Linnegar said. “He had the vision that this could be created and we had the tremendous support of the community as well.
“He has restored our faith that government will support community when community
Mr Linnegar continued by thanking the shire, builder David Doon and his crew, Peter Buckmaster and his boys, Garry Gillespie, Mick Perry and his magical paint brush, Tumut Building Supplies and Lucus Home Furnishing along with all the volunteers who contributed to make the race course and surrounds so spectacular.
A common theme that ran through the various speeches on Wednesday evening was the effort and commitment displayed by the volunteers who ensured the dream became a reality.
From a broad spectrum across the community those wanting to help came.
There was the Tumut Turf Club’s Bonnie Hyatt, Kerry Weir and his band of turf laying mates, the effervescent driving force of Phil Barton along with wife June and great friend Athol Price, Lions Geoff Kingsley and Albert Manning joined local businesses who gave more than was asked for the success of the project.
Man of few words, Kerry Weir, spoke with awe of the work that had been carried out and his gratefulness of being able to continue to train at his local track, despite thinking at one stage it was all over for the Weir Racing Stable.
“After the floods the track was unusable,” Mr Weir said. “We thought this was the end. But thanks to the shire who did everything they could to help, Phil Barton who is a saint and Athol Price who both also does so much for the town, Daryl Maguire, David Doon and Johnny Sellar for their unbelievable job and everyone who has helped, it is better than ever.”
Treated to the delicious canapes from the girls at Kat’s Whiskers, a sense of pride and achievement hung thick in the air around the guests who were able to witness the damage and dismay that accompanied the March flood through the images shown on the two large flat screens that hang in the outdoor entertaining area.
Clr Thmson spoke emotionally of her personal connection with the facility and of her gratitude to all involved.
“I remember on the day of the floods watching as the thin white line in the distance got higher until it took out the running rail and came across the whole race course area,” Clr Thomson said. “Afterwards I did think this is never going to recover. The people here who have helped and made this happen and transformed this race course from a country track to something so special, I thank you.
“The devastation at the time bought the community together. Everyone has given beyond the money value and the money for the project has stayed in the community, which is fantastic.”
When Wagga MP, Daryl Maguire, took his turn to address the gathering he received a rousing response before he spoke of the assistance he has given other racing clubs, like Tumbarumba and Lockhart, and the importance of local racing events within a town.
“I came to Tumut during the floods after I received a call from Bob Stewart and I photographed the area,” Mr Maguire said. “Many lives changed from the foothills of the Goobarragandra all the way downstream to Lockhart because of the March flood. I admit on seeing the race course under water I had serious doubts about the future of this facility.
“The community came together and beat the odds. I thank you for the way you have all pulled together to paint a vision of what you wanted it to be like and made it happen.”
Mr Maguire concluding by committing to continue working with the shire, the Tumut Turf Club and Trust on future initiatives.
As guests wandered around the upgraded facilities it was impossible to decipher who was the most excited about tomorrow’s Derby Day race meeting, the first since the floods.
Kerry Weir proudly overlooking the beautifully level and turfed track, club secretary and treasurer Lauren Roche and Bonnie Hyatt in their freshly updated offices or the humble Phil Barton and Athol Price as they beamed throughout the evening, showing the guests the flood water level line whilst quietly mentioning the work of others during the project.
Gates open for Saturday’s Derby Day at 11am with a full day of local racing, entertainment and celebration planned.