By Mindy MacLaren
As a founding member of the ‘Save Shadow Pines’ group, now known as the ‘Friends of Shadow Pines’, I take great pride in what our grassroots group of Penfield residents was able to do regarding the 211 acre former golf course. We effectively communicated to the public why it should be purchased by the Town, along with the 1832 Clark House, for fiscal, recreational, and quality of life reasons. Our bi-partisan group treated the days and weeks up to the referendum as a political campaign, knocking on doors, speaking directly with voters, turning out a significant number of Penfielders to the ballot box. This accomplishment, along with the suggestions of the Shadow Pines Land Use Advisory Committee to keep the property as undeveloped as possible is, in my opinion, the best outcome we could have expected. It is also proof that a majority of Penfielders agreed with us. That our current Town Board did not realize the emotional tie residents have to this iconic Penfield place, that they thought no one would care that a spot that is the first thing that comes to so many people’s minds when they think of Penfield would be turned into 250+ houses, is further proof that we need new leadership; that governing by reaction does not create a cohesive community.
I recently had the occasion to be at the Shadow Pines/Clark House property and I was appalled by the state of this Penfield landmark, as was the group of friends I was with. As can be seen in the pictures below, weeds are being allowed to take over and the building overall looks shabby. Across the road, the historic barn’s roof has two giant holes in its south side, all but ensuring its eventual need for demolition.
Actions speak louder than words and this lack of action regarding a Penfield landmark is unfortunately “par for the course.” I fear that it will be allowed to fall into such disrepair that it will be lost and I’m not alone in my concern. I have been told that a successful restaurateur with eateries in both Monroe and Wayne counties is now backing away from leasing the Clark House due to the poor state it has been allowed to lapse into.
A number of Penfield’s historic structures have been demolished in recent years. I have been told by residents who were concerned about the loss of these buildings that the reason given for at least 2 of them was that they were in a state beyond saving. Think of: the Penfield Tavern, the original blacksmith shop next to it, Little Nellie William’s print shop next to that, the first public library which housed an entrance to the Underground Railroad…all located within one of Penfield’s three HISTORIC PRESERVATION DISTRICTS. What does it say about Penfield that its historic landmarks rate so poorly? Why bother making them landmarks at all? If someone doesn’t step up soon on behalf of our heritage, what will be recognizable as ‘Penfield’? Myriad municipalities are able to cultivate economic and cultural benefits through adaptive re-use of their historic structures. Why can’t Penfield? It’s beginning to seem not as “can’t”, but “won’t”.
This is not why we worked so hard to keep Shadow Pines from becoming a housing development. Penfield voters came out in droves to show our elected officials that they care about this property. Our elected officials need to show they care about it along with us. Would it be so difficult to put a tarp over the holes in the barn roof? The Friends of Shadow Pines have, on several occasions, offered to support the town’s Department of Public Works in maintaining the Shadow Pines and Clark House properties to CRICKETS.
With creative thinking, proactive planning, and some TLC, this landmark could once again host any number of special events and the economic benefits that come with them, and it should. The pride instilled in Penfield residents by seeing the Clark House being cared for and successfully used would be the perfect ending to this tumultuous and years-long story.
The Republican party has been in power in Penfield for the past 36 years. I believe it is time for leadership that brings vision, fresh ideas, and practical solutions. Currently, the difference in the number of registered Republican voters versus registered Democrat voters in Penfield is less than 300. I’m running for Town Board because I believe we deserve a town government that is representative of all of us. As your Town Councilwoman, I will advocate on behalf of our beloved places, those that remind us of Penfield’s beginnings and of the early residents who helped to establish it.
Learn more about me: Mindy MacLaren for Penfield Town Board