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Locals talk property impact

By Staff | Apr 1, 2011

Prior to the riverfront revitalization partnership’s public forum April 6, some of the project’s stakeholders discuss its scope.

At various public meetings since the riverfront partnership relaunched in October, discussion about the specific impact the revitalization effort will have on private property owners as well as the Shepherd University community have continued.

This week John Loeffler, a Shepherdstown resident and co-chair of the riverfront partnership’s connections committee, clarified the partnership’s specific intentions for the residential- and University-owned areas potentially affected by the project.

Loeffler said the connection committee’s purpose is to address the issue of accessibility to the riverfront for visitors.

It was the committee’s observation that pedestrians interested in getting to areas like Rumsey Park, Cullison Park and the Mecklenburg Warehouse and boat ramp areas currently face considerable challenges.

He said that the committee is mainly interested in proposing the construction of additional sidewalks and walking routes throughout the town, the university campus and along portions of the riverfront.

Loeffler said that some degree of controversy has centered around the committee’s proposal to construct a “pedestrian egress” connecting Princess and Mill Streets along the intersection of Bones Wright Street.

The area the committee is proposing to use for a foot bridge sits directly between privately owned lots and what was formerly used as the town’s landfall.

Resident Patrinka Kelch, who owns and maintains the nearby historic Grist Mill, expressed her concerns about the idea.

“As an adjacent property owner, I’m opposed to the trail. It would legalize trespassing and would devalue my property,” she said.

Kelch plans to address this and other concerns with the riverfront partnership at the public forum next week.

Anne Munro, adjunct flute professor at Shepherd, lives along Bones Wright Street and is also one of the residents potentially impacted by the pathway, though she said she is not opposed.

“It’s public property. It wouldn’t affect us. We don’t have a problem with it,” she said.

Munro said that she is not personally worried about an increase in pedestrian traffic near her home and compared the potential walking path to a public sidewalk in any given neighborhood.

In addition to the proposed foot bridge and town sidewalks, the connections committee will likely recommend the consideration of marked walking routes through campus as well as some long-term ideas like connecting the riverfront area to the Rumsey Bridge via a ramp and pathway.

Shelli Dronsfield, assistant to the president at Shepherd, attended the last partnership meeting and addressed the university’s stance on the project at this stage.

“Shepherd is wholly supportive of this project,” she said.

Dronsfield said that as a university, part of Shepherd’s roll in the community is to facilitate research.

As a result of greater access to the river, Dronsfield believes Shepherd can expand research in academic programs, like environmental science, though Dronsfield clarified that SU has yet to commit to any specific plans regarding the riverfront revitalization effort.

Further discussion will continue at the riverfront revitalization partnership’s public forum April 6 at 7 p.m. at the Shepherdstown Train Station.

More information about the project can be found at www.ourwaterfront. org.