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Shepherdstown parks eyed for improvements

March 15, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. -- All five public parks in Shepherdstown are headed for renovations and improvements.

Members of the Shepherdstown Rotary Club recently presented a five-year park improvement plan to the Town Council, beginning with a cleanup this spring of James Rumsey Monument Park off Mill Street.

Rotarian Carl Moore, chairman of the club's parks-improvement effort, told the council that Rotarians have been considering the plan for more than two years.

The work at Rumsey Park will require the expertise and equipment of a professional landscaping company to remove brush and trees long overgrown, Moore said.

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Volunteers will also be recruited for the cleanup.

Moore estimated the cost at around $18,000. The money also will pay for signs directing patrons to the park from the downtown area.

"It's abhorrent that it's gotten to this state," Mayor Jim Auxer said of conditions at Rumsey Park, the most used of all the town's parks. The council's vote supporting the Rotarians' effort was unanimous.

The town assumed ownership of the park several years ago from the privately chartered Rumseyan Society.

The park, and especially its focal point, a monolithic, 75-foot-tall granite monument topped by a globe, is visible from many points in the community. Southbound motorists on the bridge over the Potomac River leading into Shepherdstown can easily see the monument by glancing to the southeast.

The park and monument were built by the State of West Virginia in 1915 in honor of James Rumsey, a local resident and steamboat inventor.

Rumsey Park covers 2.6 acres and is contiguous to the 3-plus-acre Cullison Park and its playground.

Moore said the plan this spring is to clear brush to ground level on all sides of the monument, trim trees on the river side of the park, remove tree branches to open the park views and put up signs around town directing residents and visitors to the park.

A six-decades-old photo of the park shows a clear view of the monument from the front entrance. The same view taken this year is blocked by tree branches.

"We will strive to restore Rumsey Park to its original splendor of open, breathtaking views with pristine landscaping ... and draw Rumsey closer to the pulse of the town. We envision a multiyear effort that will have many partners," Moore said in his presentation to the council.

The Rotary Club sponsors the town's annual Fourth of July Picnic at Morgan's Grove Park. This year's plan, Moore said, is to move the picnic to the newly cleaned up Rumsey Park. A Labor Day picnic there would close the summer season, he said. Each picnic will be highlighted by a concert.

The Rotarians' ultimate goal is to guide improvements to all the town's parks. The Rotarians would work with groups responsible for other parks in the project, Moore said.

Included in Shepherdstown's inventory of public parks, in addition to Rumsey and Cullison, are Viola Devonshire Park on East German Street, Bain Harris Park on High Street and River Front Park at the Shepherdstown boat launch on the Potomac River.

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