By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(July 26, 2018) The Berlin Town Council on Monday welcomed a series of recommendations from the Berlin Falls Park Advisory Committee, the first to come from the group to the council.
Included were endorsements to follow an interpretive plan for passive development of a portion of the park, to demolish all of the existing building near the front of the property, and to pursue “the popular idea of an amphitheater.”
Committee Chairwoman Amy Field said a report to the Town Council included a summary of the committee’s work since its formation forming last November, a list of actions and decisions, and a briefing on future agenda topics and likely next steps.
Committee Vice Chairman Jack Orris said the group had met eight times and also toured the property and interior of the main building.
The committee reviewed ideas from architectural services company EDSA and from Conservation Community Consult, a nature tourism promotion concern. It also reviewed studies and assessments on buildings and lagoons on the former industrial property, Orris said.
He said they also reviewed the town’s naming policy and explored possible partnerships and “parallel projects,” including the Bee City USA designation, interpretive signs created by Maryland Coastal Bays, inclusion in the Maryland Bikeways Program and a proposed footbridge to the Berlin Senior Center.
During the last two months, the committee created a wish list of committee ideas and voted on three items, Orris said.
“Answers to these questions will allow us to move forward in an effective manner, because they have broad implications on how we would proceed in advising features and activities on the property,” he said.
Field said committee decisions led to the installation of dog-waste receptacles at Berlin Falls, moving signs to increase visibility and repaving the park entrance.
“What we’re planning to do next … [is] hear a presentation from the YMCA about a possible partnership with them on the property, refine our committee members’ ideas and preferences, and create a working list of priorities,” Field said, adding the list would include “feasibility and timeline and budget.”
She said the committee would research how to implement the interpretive plan, for the passive area around the ponds and woods, to include bird watching pavilions and basking platforms, and trails and signs.
The committee also will explore designs and uses for an amphitheater, and plan for the building demolition, Field said.
“I think you all have done an outstanding job in the roughly nine months that you’ve been meeting,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “Getting your arms around what the possibilities were and what you could do or might do had to be a very intimidating process, but I think you did a really good job with that … You’re obviously identifying the foundational pieces of the future of Berlin Falls park.
“The things that you have listed, they sound very exciting, but very reasonable,” he added, saying the committee appeared to proceeding thoughtfully and with vision.
Williams said the council would “start thinking about where do we go from here.”
“Obviously, one of the things we need to do is find out what’s entailed in the demolition,” he said, adding the “blank canvas” approach to laying out the property, achieved by removing the old building, was a wise decision.
“I’m pleased,” Councilman Dean Burrell added.