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Group hopes to preserve land near park

January 26, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The head of a local historic organization is pushing for the preservation of about 40 acres along W.Va. 480 next to Morgan's Grove Park and would like to see it transformed into an area that would offer educational, scientific and recreational activities.

The preservation of the land would make way for such programs, but it also would preserve a site that is rich in history, said J. Davitt McAteer, head of the Morgan's Grove Historic Preservation Association LLC.

The property, referred to as Derr's Field or the Tollhouse Woods property, was the site of a tollhouse for the former Kearneysville Pike, McAteer said. The toll road ran from Shepherdstown to Middleway.

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The Derr's Field area also is where men gathered for the Beeline March in 1775. The march culminated after Gen. George Washington issued a call for Virginia Volunteer Riflemen in a movement that resulted in the famous "Beeline March" to Cambridge, Mass.

Capt. Hugh Stephenson built the ranks of his company in Shepherdstown and it is has been referred to as the first unit of the U.S. Army.

A 69-home subdivision has been proposed for the land, but McAteer is hoping that community groups can come together to purchase the property.

"We've had such phenomenal growth. We have to look into the future to deal with it," McAteer said before speaking to a full house at the Shepherdstown Men's Club's War Memorial building Wednesday night.

Max and Shirley Derr owned the property bu sold it to a Baltimore housing developer, McAteer said.

The Derrs and the company handling the project could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

McAteer said he has made some initial contacts with the developer, but has not had any serious discussions about the proposal. McAteer said he is also not sure how much the land might cost.

The land also has biological significance, McAteer said. A biological survey of the area revealed four rare plants and a spotted turtle habitat, McAteer said.

McAteer said the natural setting could be ideal for educational activities and could be similar to such activities that are offered in New York's Central Park.

"We got a park, let's enhance it," McAteer said, referring to the adjacent Morgan's Grove Park.

McAteer said he would like to see groups like the Shepherdstown Men's Club get involved in fundraising efforts for the property's purchase.

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