JACKSON — Just days after Jackson officials unveiled plans for a new park on the site, workmen could be seen removing asbestos shingles from the roof of the dilapidated Rova Farms restaurant ahead of the building’s scheduled demolition.
Two days earlier, on Oct. 22, Jackson officials hosted “Say Goodbye: Rova Farms Resort Day” at 120 Cassville Road in the Cassville section of the community to celebrate the history of a resort that was founded by Russian immigrants in the 1930s and to unveil plans for the property’s redevelopment as a natural recreation area.
The Rova Farms Historic District (Russian Mutual Aid Society) is listed on New Jersey’s Register of Historic Places.
In January, the members of the Township Council created the Rova Farms Advisory Committee to oversee the transition of the 34-acre lakeside site that was acquired by the township into Rova Park.
The new park will feature an amphitheater where the iconic restaurant stood, a pavilion along Cassville Lake, a nature trail, fishing dock, kayak launch, community garden, playground and concession stand.
According to Mayor Michael Reina, Jackson officials had open space funds available to acquire the property through the process of eminent domain. He explained the deteriorated conditions at the site.
“The property was condemned, the building was structurally unsound and the upkeep on it was nonexistent,” he said. “We purchased 1,400 acres in 2019-20. We wanted to save that heritage for our Russian community and the rich history in Jackson over the years.
“We purchased 34 acres with open space funds. Jackson has its own open space fund that is raised through taxes every year and we try to buy properties. The property acquired is along the lake frontage and then back.
“It is rich in heritage. Jackson has some rich history we wanted to keep. That was the driver, it was not done for political reasons. We told the council what we (the administration) were doing and they supported it. Everybody worked together and we did this,” Reina said.
According to the mayor, the tract will remain open space.
“We can’t do too much with it for the simple reason it has to be passive recreation. It would
be very difficult to do anything permanent. But it is important, that always was going to be first for us, preserving land for all our residents. Now (Rova Park) is in the planning stage,” Reina said.
The Rova Farms Historic District Association was founded to continue the work of
community building and community advocacy on the behalf of the larger Russian-
American community, according to a Facebook page.
ROOVA — the Russian Consolidated Mutual Aid Society of America (RCMASA)
was founded by Russian immigrants as a financial and social institution … as well as
to contribute to the preservation of Russian cultural, religious and spiritual heritage.
It was founded in 1926 as the result of a merger of five other Russian organizations.
According to the Facebook page, in 1932, ROOVA established Rova Farms Resort
Inc. in the Cassville section of Jackson as a Russian-American cultural and social center, as well as to give Russian immigrants the opportunity to cultivate the land, grow vegetables and raise livestock on their lands.
Within a few years, ROOVA had also established several other religious, cultural and
philanthropic institutions in Cassville, including St. Vladimir Memorial Church.
The Rev. Serge Ledkovsky, pastor of St. Vladimir Memorial Church, which is adjacent to the proposed Rova Park site, said this week the township’s project is a positive development for his congregation, which has an active membership of more than 100 families, including relatives of the founding group.
“There are still some families that have ties that go way back to the early era. There are not too many of those people left anymore, it is their children, their descendants,” Ledkovsky said.
He said the plan to create Rova Park “is a good thing. (The building) serves no good purpose and makes the waterfront look terrible. The whole Cassville area is changing and a lot of these little interesting spots are going to be forgotten. It is good for the township to have an understanding of its own history.
“The most important thing is that the place just be maintained and kept clean and be
a place that does not look like the remnants of a shanty town. It would be a good
idea if the lake’s waterfront would be cleaned.
“I really hope that is also in the works to get some equipment to haul debris out of
the lake, then the lake will restore itself,” Ledkovsky said.
“We don’t have any power (in what happens), but the idea of preservation of the memory of what (Rova Farms) was is important. That is going to be honored. It is clear that in the current plans that is a priority.
“We hope that will be the case because now it is still in the memory of people. But in
25 to 30 years the value of having that museum will start to be important,” he said.
During the Oct. 25 meeting of the Township Council, municipal officials acknowledged the event that was held on Oct. 22.
Councilman Stephen M. Chisholm Jr. said, “Rova Day was one last chance to say goodbye to Rova Farms. No plans are set in stone for the future. The Rova Farms Advisory Committee is looking forward to making something great for the people of Jackson.”
Councilwoman Samara O’Neill said, “Rova Day was a beautiful event. Kudos to the committee.”
Township Council President Martin Flemming said the planned Rova Park “is going to be a great park. Hopefully we can get it there in the next year or so.”
The council members thanked the individuals who have been serving on the Rova Farms Advisory Committee and township employees for all of their efforts in making the Rova Day event a success.