March 20, 2014 at 11:04 PM
In response to the March 4, 2014, Town Council decision to repair the Shady Rest Clubhouse:
As the Chairman of the “Preserve the Shady Rest Committee,” I have attended many of the Council meetings to discuss saving the Shady Rest Clubhouse and preventing it from falling into further disrepair. The clubhouse, presently owned and operated by the Township of Scotch Plains, was the centerpiece of the Shady Rest Golf and Country Club, the first African American owned and operated club in the nation, and once the home course of America’s first professional golfer John Shippen, an African American.
Last August, I stood before the Town Council and asked that Shady Rest be repaired, starting with replacing the roof that leaks badly. Further, I asked the Council not to use the Shady Rest as a campaign issue. Regrettably my request fell on deaf ears. While I have heard lots of words, what have you done? Why can you all not see and address the obvious? Would you not fix a hole in your own roofs to prevent further damage to your homes?
Councilman Vastine, at the Feb. 18th, 2014 Town Council meeting, you may recall that you refused to entertain taking action to replace the roof, instead arguing that the necessary repairs had been made to prevent leaks and further damage last fall. I am certain you are now aware that the following day the building incurred significant interior damage resulting from melting snow and rain penetrating through the roof, which if repaired as you had said it was, was clearly done poorly. The damage I saw included, fallen ceiling tiles, walls so wet the sheet rock had to be removed, water accumulation in ceiling light fixtures and damage to the wood veneer floors, all of which resulted in the canceling of all activities at the building until emergency repairs could be made.
Disappointingly, at March 4th Town Council meeting, once again the majority of the Council led by Councilman Bo Vastine with support from Deputy Mayor Marcus and Councilman Jones argued and voted against taking immediate and specific action to replace the building’s roof that is in total disrepair. They ignored the obvious need by vetoing a call to replace it. While voting against taking immediate action, Councilman Vastine also refuses to hold those directly responsible for maintaining and protecting this building accountable for their years of neglect and blatant disregard of this Township landmark and part of our nation’s history.
I have been the author of the majority of emails, letters, press releases and flyers. Contrary to Mr. Vastine’s allegations, there was no propaganda, no misleading statements, just truth and facts. Recently, a reporter for NJ.com who has covered the ongoing efforts to restore the Shady Rest contacted me. I told no lies nor did I mislead him in any way regarding what had occurred. He asked me what I saw, and I told him exactly what I witnessed, which is what I’ve been sharing with you in my efforts to save the Shady Rest.
Presently the USGA Museum in Far Hills, NJ, has an exhibit on African Americans in golf history entitled “More Than A Game,” which prominently recognizes the Shady Rest and Mr. Shippen. At the conclusion of this temporary exhibit I have been told that many pieces of memorabilia and artifacts as well as other items would be available to be housed in a permanent exhibition in the Shady Rest Club House for all to enjoy if we could safely secure them. I am hopeful this can be accomplished.
As Chairman of the Preserve the Shady Rest Committee, I do not intend to rest until this building, this important place of Scotch Plains and American history is paced in the hand of caretakers who value its place in history and will work to make it once again a place for families and future generations to come to enjoy and learn from its history. My appeal is to all the citizens of Scotch Plains: we must not let indifference, ignorance, a lack of funds, or a partisan Council stop us from doing what is right. Once again I am asking you to take immediate action to preserve this historic site.
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