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Saturday, Oct 20, 2018
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Golf course designation on hold

TAMPA - A coveted historical designation for Rogers Park Golf Course is on hold while state officials rethink the focus of their original application to the United States National Park Service. They plan to expand the requested coverage area to include all of Rogers Park — not just the original nine-hole course designed by Willie Black and built by about 65 black volunteers. Black was a caddie at the all-white Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club in 1951 when he received permission from then-Mayor Curtis Hixon to build the course at Rogers Park. During segregation, the park was the only place blacks could enjoy picnics, family reunions and community-wide gatherings. The decision to revise the application for historical status was prompted by questions from a Washington, D.C., review panel. Those questions in part were directed at changes made through the years to the course's original appearance.
The golf course was nominated as a national historic landmark in July by the Florida National Registry Review Board. Nominations for the National Registry of Historic Places are approved by national park service officials. "They did not outright deny (the application)," said Barbara Mattick, deputy historic preservation officer with Florida's Department of State. "We felt it would be eligible. It's such an important place we're finding a way to revamp the nomination. We're going to come at it from a different angle." In addition to expanding the geographical boundaries of historical designation, the application will take a broader view of the park and golf course and their cultural and social history during segregation. About 1,100 structures and historic districts are added to the federal list annually. National landmark status is largely symbolic, but it can make the site eligible for federal grants or tax credits. James Ransom said he and others plan to ask city officials also to consider local historical designation for the park which was named for Ransom's grandfather, G.D. Rogers. That decision would start with the city's Historic Preservation Commission, which does research and makes recommendations on local landmarks, said Thom Snelling, the city's planning and development director. Although some parts of the course might have been reshaped over the years, Ransom said, "The events and the reason the site became significant in history, they don't change." The golf course was one of a few open to blacks nationally, and the only one in Florida. About four years ago, the course was the first to be inducted into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame. Many black golfers who had nowhere else to play earned entry into the PGA tour by honing their skills at Rogers Park. The roster includes Hall of Famer Charlie Sifford, Jim Dent, Charlie Owens and Bobby Stroble.

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