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NPS joins river frontage rehab

By Staff | Oct 30, 2009

Christopher Niewold of the National Park Service sits with Mayor Jim Auxer, center, and Councilman Howard Mills, right, during a press conference Wednesday at the Entler Hotel. Photo by Michael Theis/Chronicle

Town leaders are taking renewed interest in Shepherdstown’s once thriving commercial riverfront, the site where inventor James Rumsey made the first successful launch of a steam-powered boat in 1787.

Officials of the town of Shepherdstown and representatives of partner organizations Wednesday held a news conference at the Entler Hotel to announce the launch of a new project to revitalize the town’s Potomac River frontage.

“I want to be clear that this will be an open and inclusive process,” said Mayor Jim Auxer. He applauded the NPS for its “ability to achieve consensus, which will be of the utmost importance in Shepherdstown.”

The project will encompass town-owned land along the river at Shepherdstown, including the Rumsey Monument Park, Cullison Park, the historic Tobacco Warehouse, the adjacent boat ramp and riverfront, and the lower end of the Town Run, where a pedestrian bridge across the Town Run gully at Rocky Street has been discussed.

The ultimate goal will be to preserve and improve those resources in ways that will tie them together and maximize their scenic, recreational and historical potential.

The project partners will also work to develop connections to other nearby natural and historic resources, including the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Auxer and Shepherdstown Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Howard Mills said the project’s first steps will include the following:

– The development of a master plan for the river frontage area that will incorporate various efforts already underway as well as new ideas.

– Reaching out to additional organizations that might be interested in partnering with Shepherdstown on the project.

– Identifying funding sources-both public and private-to help realize the project’s goals.

Working with staff from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, the Rotary Club of Shepherdstown will help the town manage these phases of the project.

Rotary member David Humphreys, an attorney and retired executive, will serve as an unpaid volunteer project coordinator, and other Club members with varying kinds of expertise will volunteer their services as well.

Shepherd University, local nonprofit organizations such as the Historic Shepherdstown Commission and the Friends of the Shepherdstown Riverfront, and the local business community are also strongly supporting the project.

This first phase of the project is expected to take about a year.

Also participating in the press conference were Christopher Niewold, of the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program; Shepherdstown Rotary Club President Douglas Alexander; and Dr. Suzanne Shipley, President of Shepherd University.

“You guys have an amazing array of historical and recreational resources,” said Niewold. “Any town in America would be glad to have them.”

Niewold said the whole process will be “community driven,” with open meetings and “focus groups” expected to take place soon.

– Look for more coverage of the riverfront revitalization effort in upcoming editions of the Chronicle.