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Park transfer idea playing to mixed reviews

July 16, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A proposal to transfer ownership of Morgan's Grove Park from the Shepherdstown Men's Club to Jefferson County is raising concerns among some local residents.

The proposal stems from another controversial plan in which the Jefferson County Commission was asked to purchase 11 acres adjacent to the park for $1 million.

At least two commissioners have expressed opposition to paying that much money for the property. Commissioner Jane Tabb, has called the price "absolutely outrageous."

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That's when Bill Hoak started thinking.

The $1 million price tag for the 11 acres means that the owner of the property - Gene Henry - is asking roughly $99,000 per acre, said Hoak, chairman of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission.

If the Shepherdstown Men's Club gives Morgan's Grove Park to the county, it could be viewed that the county would be paying more along the line of a little more than $30,000 an acre, Hoak said.

The park contains 21 acres.

Hoak declined to say if he thinks the 11-acre plot is overpriced.

Commissioner Greg Corliss is among a group of county residents who like the idea.

Turning the park over to the county and in a sense reducing the asking price for acreage to about $30,000 gives "political cover" to an issue that is expected to generate some interest, Corliss said.

Plus, the county needs all the park space it can get to offset its growing population, Corliss said.

"It's a nice park now. It would just be a nicer park," Corliss said.

Diana Suttenfield is among a group of local residents concerned about the idea.

Suttenfield said county parks officials have complained about not having enough money to run their parks and she worries about how that could affect Morgan's Grove Park if it is turned over to the county.

Suttenfield, an artist who lives near the park, also worries about the protection of environmentally sensitive areas around the park and other maintenance issues involving the property.

"It's a whole general concern. It has real wide consequences," Suttenfield said.

Morgan's Grove Park, which is southwest of Shepherdstown at the intersection of W.Va. 480 and Morgan Grove Road, is a popular park with soccer fields, a kitchen facility, a baseball backstop and other attractions.

The Shepherdstown Men's Club, a private club which operates the War Memorial Building in Shepherdstown, has owned the park since 1961.

County Commission President Al Hooper said he shares Tabb's concern about the price of the Henry property. Hooper said he is opposed to paying that much for land to allow Morgan's Grove Park to expand, especially in light of other funding needs in the county.

Joel Garner said he has not heard a good argument for the Shepherdstown Men's Club transferring ownership of the park to the county. Some Shepherdstown Men's Club members were worried about potential liability problems for a private club running a park, but those concerns seem to have been allayed, said Garner, the club's secretary.

Hoak said he plans to bring the proposal before the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission next Wednesday. Garner said the Shepherdstown Men's Club is expected to consider the issue during a Sept. 8 meeting.

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