Cecelia's articles are illustrated by Allan who enjoys photography. Cecelia is also the author of: "Silver Springtime", "All for Love", "Mystic Evermore" and the new release: "Faith and Love". https://creativearts2009-picturefiles.blogspot.com/
Published August 3rd 2016
Cheltenham Racecourse becomes a recreation park and housing
Over the past few months, we have been driving past Cheltenham Park Racecourse and witnessing the destruction of an early South Australian icon, as the land has been sold and redevelopment commenced.
Distinctive Cheltenham pine trees - Photo by Allan
According to the City of Charles Sturt, the Port Adelaide Racing Club first leased the site at Cheltenham in 1895. They then purchased the site for £25,000 in 1921.The racecourse has a historical significance that extends beyond the history of racing as it was used for army training during World War I and II. It is also associated with the development of aviation in Australia, with a flight exhibition held in July 1910, and the area being used intermittently for flight related activities until 1914.
According the South Australian Jockey Club, the "Turf Club of Australia" was formed in 1838. This early attempt at administration failed, but racing continued, with 1846 races being held in the Eastern Parklands area, now known as Victoria Park. Another site at Glenelg (thought to be close to where Morphetville is today) was opened in 1851. A third site was opened in Thebarton, moved to Grand Junction Road and then to Cheltenham. Horse racing in Adelaide suffered some set-backs as it was associated with the social ill of excessive gambling; leading to bans in 1885 and during World War II. Attendance was also low during the depression, when people had few spare resources for sport and entertainment. In 1979 a fire destroyed the member's stand at Morephetville, causing major races to be transferred to Cheltenham and Victoria Park.
Cheltenham Racecourse under redevelopment - Photo by Allan
However, Morphetville was re-furbished using the latest technology and architecture, becoming South Australia's premier racing venue. A second track was also opened at Morphettville, rendering the alternate sites obsolete. The last horse race was held at Victoria Park in 2007, and the site, which formed part of the Grand Prix circuit in 1985, is now used annually as part of the Clipsal 500 circuit. In February 2009, the last race meeting was also held at Cheltenham Park.
At first I was sad to witness the destruction of a historic site. All you could see from the road was the fences and demolition. Then diggers and large piles of dirt appeared. It meant re-development, presumably for housing and a great deal of profit. The signs and banners announced the construction of a new housing area to be known as "St Clair".
St Clair housing development sign - Photo by Allan
After a while, I could see some small ponds being constructed along the edge of the development. I thought this was merely landscaping. It would represent smart marketing to make the new development attractive. Of recent months, however, I noticed children's play equipment being installed and began to form the opinion that the character of some of the land was being maintained as a recreation area.
It appears that the original Cheltenham Park Racecourse gates have been repainted and set into new pillars. The area in front of them is paved, but you cannot drive up to them as there is no incline on the pavement edge at that point. Also, the gates lead to a boardwalk bridge which clearly is not designed to support general traffic. It forms part of a very attractive walking area – or will once completed.
Walking around the perimeter, I observed a skate park / children's tunnel play area with convenient seating for supervising parents being installed. Some of the old walls are still in place and we photographed them just in case they were going to be removed. A basketball ring is set up in a handy position for one-on-one and shot practice.
There is a large shed, but it is not in use yet. Grassed areas and paving lead to several sets of play equipment. One area appears designed for younger children, while another area has extensive climbing facilities and almost represents "adventure" equipment for older children. Several foot-bridges are already usable, and you can walk out to an attractive "island" and enjoy being surrounded by the water. Ducks and seagulls are already moving into the area.
I am pleased to see that some effort is being made to retain a portion of the area for recreational purposes and incorporate some of the history of the site. I believe more horse related memorabilia would be appropriate, and will visit the site when construction is finished to see if there is a monument or educational signage.
I hope they have left the building that was hired out by a lot of groups for special functions. I went there to a company social club Christmas Dinner.
Is is a wonderful building with plenty of facilities provided it hasn't been allowed to be ruined.