SMC contemplates park’s fate
Residents of Shepherdstown have many rich traditions and are surrounded by history. This is certainly true for Morgan Grove Park where the Shepherdstown Men’s Club provides a beautiful 20-acre tract replete with a running track, picnic pavilion and other facilities including the original spring house built in the 1830s.
In 1999, the park was placed on the National Registry of Historical Places for several reasons including the preservation of the original structures.
The pavilion was built upon the ruins of Confederate Col. Alexander Boteler’s home, which was constructed in 1831. There was even a first railroad stop at the park the Shenandoah Valley Railroad constructed in 1879.
“In those early days there was a flag stop and small station where the present Morgan Grove Road crossed the tracks,” said Michael Austin, president of the SMC, which owns the park.
Today, the question posed by their membership is what direction to take the park in the near future. The current lease agreement with the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation will expire in February 2013.
In that vein, the club has formed an ad hoc committee chaired by Chris Stroech, a local attorney and club secretary, to look at viable options which are underlined by the objectives they hold dear.
“We feel we need to do a better job,” Austin said. “The members of the past did many things to improve the park through capital projects, such as the running path (which they built themselves) and through encouraging use by the local community.”
Austin was adamant that the legacy would continue to build in the future.
“We need to look at long-term growth in Shepherdstown,” he said. “We welcome public input; we want to hear from the folks that use the park.”
Austin cited several examples where they are joining forces with other city groups including the fire department, Rotary and others to plan events at the park, including July 4.
Currently, the lease with the county and has yielded much of the authority for improvements to them. The county rents the fields for soccer teams and the pavilion for picnics and other special events. Austin said in addition to those revenues which total about $10,000, the men’s club pays them $4,000 per year for maintaining the grounds. The club pays for all capital improvements and many of those have been deferred for some time, Austin said.
He said that under the current lease the club is more like an absentee owner than director of the grounds.
“We would like to do more,” Austin said, outlining some of the key priorities under consideration. “We are looking at long-term projects that include upgrades to the bathroom facilities, cooking facility, the pavilion and the well system.”
He added, “Our goals include the preservation of the natural beauty and historical heritage of the park and to prevent encroachment or commercialization … and we have not lost sight of the activities many families enjoy here – healthy exercise, a variety of events for youth and for our senior citizens.”
The Shepherdstown Men’s Club welcomes public input and will host forums in the future in conjunction with the ad hoc committee findings to determine the best method to follow for the future.
More information is available at the club’s website at www.smc25443.org. Anyone interested in participating in the planning, contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 304-876-0598.
“The Morgan Grove Park provides a tranquil place that we can simply come to enjoy,” Austin said.