SHEPHERDSTOWN — Four members of the Shepherdstown Community Club resigned today, including the club’s president and its treasurer, according to a letter to the editor sent to the Spirit this week.
The group of members who resigned included the club’s president, Nancy Stewart; treasurer Mark Kohut; a past president, Tom Huddleston and board member Howard Wachtel.
The resignations appear to be fueled by problems surrounding Morgan’s Grove Park, a nearly 26-acre park owned by the group and up until recently, maintained by the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Department.
With Jefferson County’s recreation board announcing it would end its financial assistance this fall, the Shepherdstown Community Club has been exploring ways to maintain funding for the park. According to information acquired from the county by the club, the cost for the park’s upkeep is roughly $67,000 a year. The county was losing roughly $12,000 a year managing the park.
Some of that money was being reimbursed by local soccer groups that used fields at the park, which sometimes came to nearly $10,000 each year. When rain flooded the fields this past summer and made mowing impossible, the soccer teams weren’t able to use the fields and that revenue stream dried up.
The letter paints the picture of a hostile scene at last week’s annual membership meeting.
“The main points of contention at the November 13 meeting emanated from these decisions. Instead of working with us as a community to solve a difficult challenge, a rump group of soccer enthusiasts, a real estate company owner (who noted the park’s value in selling properties), and those Board members who dissented from the majority’s approach nominated and elected enough new Board members to take over the Club,” the letter read.
While the soccer enthusiasts went unnamed, a possible deal with Epic Soccer was mentioned elsewhere in the letter, wherein it was noted that that arrangement wasn’t big enough to fix the problem by itself.
David Rosen, a member of the Shepherdstown Council who was present for the meeting, said no one from Epic Soccer was at the meeting.
“There were no soccer club representatives in attendance at this meeting so any statement about them or their intent would be a miscatagerization,” Rosen said. “The newly-elected board members’ only goal is to continue to keep Morgan’s Grove open to the public for our friends and families to enjoy.”
The members who resigned had been trying to secure funding for the park for the next five years and in their letter, said they didn’t think it was responsible to open the park on April 1, 2020 without a long-term commitment.
Jen Wabnitz, a board member of the club, said that there are answers to funding the park that don’t involve a five-year plan and that year-to-year fundraising is just a part of working with a community group.
“How many companies do you know of that have the next five years of funding sitting around?” She asked. “I can’t think of any.”
Prior to last week’s meeting, Stewart was quoted in The Observer as saying that selling the park was an option if a long-term commitment couldn’t be reached.
Both Rosen and Wabnitz indicated that Stewart’s remarks might have raised the temperature at the meeting.
Wabnitz sought to clear up any confusion about the park’s ownership.
“The park is not for sale,” she said. “It’s not going to be for sale and it never has been for sale.”