MARONG Light Harness Club president Wally Newton has delivered a passionate last-minute plea aimed at stopping the City of Greater Bendigo from eventually booting the club from its long-term home at Malone Park.
Councillors will vote on Monday whether to support a master plan for the 43-hectare Malone Park sporting precinct.
A key recommendation is the removal and relocation of the light harness club from its home of nearly 50 years.
The recommendation comes despite opposition from nearly half the people who took part in recent community consultations, including a strong contingent of people with ties to harness racing and other horse sports.
Ahead of Monday's vote, Newton is urging councillors not to turn their back on the club and its contribution to Marong's history and the community.
"It's part of an industry, people make a living from the sport," he said.
"Trotting, pony clubs, the gallops - it's a bloody big industry.
"It's been a service and we've been there for so long. Why would you turn your back on that?"
Marong Light Harness Club has called Malone Park home since the mid-1970s and still runs race trials every Thursday night for six months of the year.
A decades-long source of pride, one of Australia's fastest and greatest pacers, the legendary Popular Alm had his first trial at Marong back in the late-70s.
Throughout its history, the club has harmoniously co-existed with its other sporting tenants.
No timeframe has been put on a potential relocation or start to the development.
Under the master plan, the removal of trotting facilities would free up space for the equivalent of two extra illuminated football grounds in a suburb with higher-than-average numbers of Australian Rules players and multiple sporting clubs.
The council is predicting Marong's population could quadruple to 8000 people by 2045, exacerbating the need to plan now for the town's future sporting infrastructure requirements.
But Newton is questioning the council's strategy.
"I can't see why they would want two football grounds in that space for a start," he said.
"We'll work in with the football club and if they want to put a football ground in the middle of the track, we'll work around it, as we have for years with the cricket club.
"But they (council) seem to want to take over the lot.
"If there's not enough room, extend our back straight and make some room, but it seems like they just want to get rid of us as there are not enough people using it. But it's not only trotting people using it during the week.
"They (the council) are saying there are going to be 8000 people in Marong one day, but 8000 of them aren't going to be playing football.
"There's a hell of a lot of retired people moving into Marong."
Angering the club further, its committee believes many of the facts contained in the master plan about its history, including dates and current usage, are 'inaccurate' and 'potentially misleading'.
Bendigo region-based Trots Club Victoria delegate John Campbell, who has thrown his support behind the club's push to remain at Malone Park, is calling on the council to defer its vote.
He described the short consultation period between the official release of the master plan late last week and Monday's vote as rushed and inadequate.
"We know they are going to adopt the plan, we know that, but we are asking councillors to defer their decision to relocate Marong Light Harness until further discussion has taken place," he said.
"They are still talking (relocation to) Sebastian, but Sebastian is saying no, no, no.
"Marong is the only other track in a large area qualified to run trials, doing so every Thursday night for six months of the year.
"Heathcote and Elmore don't run trials and there's none at Wedderburn, only at headquarters at Junortourn (Lord's Raceway). To that end, Marong is pretty important to our harness racing community.
"I know the main half-dozen volunteers at Marong Light Harness won't be going to Sebastian or anywhere else to volunteer to run trials and Sebastian has said they don't have the volunteers to do it.
"If they (council) are saying they are going to upgrade Sebastian or somewhere else to relocate us, they could save half a million dollars and put it into Malone Park."
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