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A park in need of friends

September 17, 2004

Morgan's Grove Park in Jefferson County, W.Va., will remain in private hands for the time being, thanks to a Wednesday vote by the group that owns it, the Shepherdstown Men's Club.

Club members apparently feared that the county government wouldn't have the money to maintain it. It's time to begin thinking creatively about how to ensure the 21-acre park could remain a public recreation area.

This week's vote was 48 to 47 against the proposal. Passing the measure would have required two-thirds of the members to vote for it.

Joe Garner, secretary of the club, said he felt the proposal wouldn't "go anywhere for now."

That might be wishful thinking. Another 11 acres adjacent to the park has been offered for sale by owner Gene Henry, who is asking $1 million.

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Back in April, that price stunned Commissioner Jane Tabb, who called it "absolutely outrageous."

Whether that's an outrageous price depends on what the buyer would use it for. It's near the intersection of W.Va., 480 and Morgan Grove Road and contains a large house and a pool. With some of the housing prices we're seeing today, it's certainly possible someone could purchase it, then subdivide the property.

No one is saying that it would be a bad idea to combine Henry's land with the park property. The sticking point is the purchase price and the cost of ongoing maintenance.

We suggest that citizens who'd like to see this happen explore formation of a group to make it a reality.

Call it the "Friends of Morgan Grove" park, then begin to look for state or private money to purchase the property. At the same time, look at how to set up an endowment fund to cover annual maintenance.

At some point in the future, as the area continues to grow, there will be a need for more recreational areas. At that point it would be nice to celebrate the foresight that preserved it, instead of remembering what might have been.

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