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Berlin Council puts focus on parks project, cleanup

BERLIN– A green theme permeated the town council meeting on Monday, April 28.
The mayor and council members discussed an ambitious parks project, as well as the recent Cleanup Day in Berlin.
Kate Patton, executive director of the Lower Shore Land Trust, called for council support of a grant application funding the Assateague Gateway Trail.
“The Lower Land Trust, along with Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park, Worcester County and other non-profit partners, wish to secure a portion of the $900,000 being made available to the State of Maryland,” she said.
Available grant money is part of the Federal Lands Access Program’s MAP-21 program, funding projects that promote sustainability and work to connect local communities to national parks. The group is requesting $500,000 in total.
“Where we plan to focus on this grant application is the whole corridor between Berlin and Assateague,” Patton said. “The goal of this request is to secure funding that will lay the foundation to protect this scenic route – this gateway – that works both ways between Berlin and Assateague. It’s in all of our interests to make sure that our federal park is protected and that the surrounding lands provide a visible and beautiful access to the park.”
The council agreed to write a letter of endorsement to be included with the grant application, and to earmark $2,000 towards the project and provide limited staff support.
Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen provided an assessment of last Saturday’s annual Cleanup Day.
“I got a text from Steve Farr at about 11 o’clock that said out of Hudson branch they had gotten 1,000 bottles, 10 basketballs, two beds and a Buddha,” she said.
The Buddha in question, a heavy stone statue, was held up at the meeting by Farr, a Berlin resident and volunteer.
Farr, who noted the cleanup effort was “modest in terms of participation,” was initially startled by how clean the Hudson branch area appeared.
“In years past – this is the third of fourth year that we’ve done it – you could see all of the litter and the bags, etc. and there was nothing,” he said. “And we thought, ‘maybe people are starting to pay attention.’ We waded upstream about 50 feet and looked around the corner and, lo and behold, there was the two box springs and a mattress in the middle of the stream, and all of the trash was dammed up behind it.”
Volunteers found the Buddha statue in the stream along with dozens of bags of trash.
“I found it mostly amusing, but the thing is, to dump this into the stream and to dump two beds in the stream, it takes more effort to do that than to put it out in front of the house,” Farr said. “So obviously we still have some prevention, education and outreach to take care of.”
Mayor Gee Williams called for “community brainstorming” in order to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“It’s just absurd – it’s so much easier to put it out there and allow public works and sanitation to remove it properly,” he said. “I tend to think that it’s still adults who can’t break old habits (and) I’d love to figure out among our groups of interested citizens how we can come up with a targeted campaign in the beginning, because here we are getting ready to invest significant dollars into storm water management that will positively impact that entire neighborhood, and this is self-defeating. It doesn’t seem like we’re asking somebody to do more; we’re asking them to do less.”
Williams called for increased awareness ahead of future cleanup days, offering to knock on doors himself and pass out information.
“Let’s just browbeat the folks into understanding how serious this is – not to be a part from Berlin but a part of it,” he said. “Can you imagine the town of Berlin if it was just strung with trash – bottles and Buddhas – all along Main Street? We would be just the opposite of cool; we would be a place that people would avoid.”
The council also approved the implementation of in line disconnects on town power lines, an upgrade that will help the electric department isolate power outages and drastically decrease the amount of homes and businesses affected during outages.