Wood sculptor Rob Bast works on the first of three sculptures at Kilmore Racecourse and Recreational Reserve. He is pictured crafting a horse and jockey.

By Tricia Mifsud

THE remaining stumps of Monterey cypress trees removed from Kilmore Racecourse and Recreational Reserve last year are being sculptured into works of art representing the area.

Wood carver Rob Bast and Taungurung Land and Waters Council wood carver Mick Harding will collaborate on one of the stumps to create a piece depicting local Aboriginal life, while Mr Bast will work on the remaining two pieces.

Mr Bast, who has worked as a professional wood sculptor since 2009, has begun sculpting one of the stumps into a horse and jockey, while the other stump will be shaped into a crowd cheering on the jockey, all dressed in period outfits.

Trustees of Kilmore Racecourse and Recreational Reserve chairman Danny Laws said it was always the plan when the trees were removed to turn the stumps into sculptures.

He hoped the sculptures would help create a sense of community in Kilmore.

“The whole removal process was discussed with council and the government because people weren’t happy with the trees coming down, so the trustees, government and DELWP [Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning] determined to keep three tree stumps and have them carved,” Mr Laws said.

“We hope that the sculptures will be multi-generational and will bring tourism to the town. We’ve been told people drive hundreds of kilometres for Rob’s work.

“The sculptures were in the plans from March [2021] and were a long-term investment to the landscape at the reserve. We hope it’s a positive thing for the community.”

Mitchell Shire Council deemed the trees unsafe after consultating with an arborist.

Mr Laws understood why the community was disappointed the trees were removed, but said the trustees always had the community’s best interests in mind.

“We understood that the trees were quite old and had a history at the reserve … the problem was a lot of people complained because branches were landing on the road on a weekly basis. It made it unsafe for anyone driving or walking in the area,” he said.

“We had them looked at and the trees were at their life’s end. If a branch had fallen and it killed a family of five, then what then? It doesn’t matter what you do, there will always be [objectors] but the removal of the trees was in best interest.”

In addition to the wood sculptures, the trustees are planning to further improve the nature walk around the perimeter of the race track.

At least 30 nesting boxes will be installed to ensure mating season for native birds is not interrupted, maintaining a fauna biodiversity link between the reserve and Kilmore’s Monument Hill.  

“For 120 years, it has always been racing here … we’re trying to make sure [the reserve] is a community asset as well as we know Kilmore is going to only double in size,” Mr Laws said.

“The trustees didn’t think there was a space for the public to walk and it just worked with the off-lead dog park and it’s a beautiful walk … adding the sculptures provides another unique attraction to those using the walking path.”

People are encouraged to stop by and see the work of Mr Bast over upcoming weeks.