Shepherdstown, in spite of being a small town, has five parks supervised by the Town's Parks and Recreation Committee. One of those is Rumsey Monument Park. Rumsey is splendidly situated on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River with a grand panoramic view of the river and the surrounding landscape largely untouched by development. The park's natural beauty is accentuated by the Rumsey Monument, dedicated to James Rumsey, the inventor of the steamboat, which gives the park an air of significance. Yet the park remains largely undiscovered and little used by local residents.
The Rotary Club of Shepherdstown mounted an effort in 2009 to improve awareness of, access to and enjoyment of Rumsey Park. The highlight event was the 4th of July Parade which was designed to lead people to the park where families enjoyed games, refreshments and music until early evening.
There was a relatively large turnout and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves especially the children. It was a grand family day befitting a 4th of July celebration. The wow! moment of the day came for me when speaking to quite a few people I was amazed to find that without exception they either 1) did not know about Rumsey Park or 2) had heard of it but were not exactly sure where it was located, or 3) had not been there since their days at Shepherd University going back many years.
Rotary held a similar event at Rumsey on Labor Day. On this occasion, the monument was illuminated at dusk by a temporary array of floodlights. While the temporary lights provided a less than an ideal lighting arrangement, the results were nonetheless impressive. With properly engineered lighting it should be a sight that brings a sense of delight to anyone who has an opportunity to see it.
I understand resistance to change - especially from residents in the immediate neighborhood of the park. I admit to writing in opposition to particular development plans in my day. Having said that, Rumsey Park and the adjoining Cullison Parks are Town treasures. It is my hope that we can come together to address the concerns expressed by citizens, especially those relating to vandalism and security, such that we can rediscover and take pride in these wonderful public properties and enjoy them in a way that pleases everyone.
John V. Loeffler