Did Gloucester Township's taxes, and "redevelopment plan, erase a part of African American history?

Gloucester Township, Camden County, NJ

The Gloucester Township redevelopment plan has been on the books since the 1980's, but the current elected officials have taken "redevelopment" to new and higher levels.
In theory, the township officials have responded to public questions, in that the entire area of the township, is labeled "in need of redevelopment'. That allows the Mayor and council to use, and possibly abuse a privilege to make a property or land that much more appealing to a developer, or buyer, somewhat at the cost of local taxpayers.

When a property can be sold at below fair market value, or a tax abatement is granted where it otherwise is not necessary, the local taxpayers make up that cost to close the gap for schools, fire departments, and lack of collectible taxes for that abatement period of time, until the abatement ends, and regular taxes are payable. The question arises that in 2016, did this push for "redevelopment" erase a vital part of African American history?

Up until 2016, Freeway Golf Course was the very first African American owned golf course in America, and was located right here in the Sicklerville section of Gloucester Township.
In 1967 four black businessmen, who were also golfers, heard that a golf course was up for auction. With segregation still upon them, they felt owning their own golf course was a good idea. These men were Al Letson, a realtor, Maxwell Stanford, a business owner, Robert Salsbury, a motel owner, and James Blocker, vice-president at First Pennsylvania Bank. They decided to bid for the golf course. This was a major decision and a very expensive objective. They decide to involve the black golf clubs. It only took a few months to get 100 golfers to pledge $1,000.00 each for the down payment. In many instances, First Pennsylvania Bank loaned the individuals the $1,000.00 that was needed. An offer of $250,000 was accepted and Freeway Golf Course was purchased. The story of Freeway Golf Course is a part of black history. Many well-known golfers have played at Freeway. The first Sammy Davis Jr. Open was held a Freeway Golf Course. The tournament was such a great success that the next year it was moved to Hartford, CT. and was added to the PGA Tour. The tournament is now known as the Travelers Insurance Championship. Since the purchase the course has been continually maintained and improved. The largest improvement was a computerized irrigation system that enables us to irrigate all or part of the golf course at any time day or night. Our golf legend Bill Bishop is our Class A PGA Pro. Each year for the past 41 years he has hosted the Bill Bishop Benefit Pro-Am Golf Classic bringing professional golfers to Freeway. The tournament proceeds benefit the Bill Bishop Golf Foundation, which fund the Bill Bishop Junior Golf Program. Freeway Golf Course is the home course for many of our golf clubs, Freeway Golf Club, Green Ladies, Del-Val Golf Club, Philadelphia Chapter of the National Negro Golf Association, and others.

In 2016, the golf course was sold, and redevelopment would erase that part of history. Was it the staggering property tax increases that made it difficult for the historic establishment to continue to survive, or was it the political hawks sitting on the proverbial fence, waiting to "redevelop" a once proud piece of cultural history for other reasons. Maybe only those close to the source (inner circles) would know for sure, but you would think that a town that prides itself on diversification, and values, would have fought for such a piece of history, that has greater value to history, rather than dollars and cents.

Either way, one must look at this from two directions. Why did local politicians allow such a huge party of African American history to slip out or our town's hands, and this over push of "need" for redevelopment extended way to far. One of those two issues can be addressed. The other may just be historically erased forever. That is more than just a shame. That is a priceless part of history, that we can never get back.

Detail source on Freeway Golf Course from "Freewaygolf1967.com" Listed as the Unofficial website for the Golf course.