By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(June 21, 2018) Debating what, exactly, to call the former Tyson’s Chicken property on Old Ocean City Boulevard in Berlin is far from a new pastime, although one name seems to have gathered momentum of late.
Currently the property is referred to as “Berlin Falls park,” evoking Bedford Falls from the 1946 Frank Capra-directed, Jimmy Stewart-starring “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Some in town, however, have asked if “Mary Humphreys Park” would be a more appropriate name, at least for the portion designated to remain a passive-use area that highlights its natural landscape and wildlife.
Lower Shore Land Trust Executive Director Kate Patton suggested the name during a Berlin Falls Park Committee meeting in March.
“Everybody is calling that park that used to be the Tyson Plant the Mary Humphreys Park – everybody is calling it that,” Patricia Dufendach of the Berlin Park Commission said last week.
“I’ve heard that same thing. I think it’s a very good suggestion,” Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said on Monday. “From my personal viewpoint, I think naming different parts of the park for things that would be meaningful either in memory or in recognition of people who supported this community in a variety of ways would be perfectly appropriate.”
On naming the northern, passive portion of the park after Humphreys, Williams added, “Her legacy would be very fitting there.”
“Whatever becomes of the former processing plant building, there’s many different possibilities there, and then you’ve got the open space that has so many possibilities I don’t even want to guess what they end up being in the short term,” he said. “But, in every case, I think the naming policy that the council came up with … is a way to handle these things.”
The policy, approved last May, allows individuals or organizations to request names for town structures and real property, including open spaces, parks and memorials, by submitting a written request to the town administrator. A public hearing must be held to receive comments “on all naming or renaming requests,” the policy states.
But just who was Mary Humphreys?
For one, she’s the subject of a new women in history exhibit at the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum on 208 North Main Street.
The evolving summer-long exhibit began with Roselle Handy, founder of the town library, and will soon cover Humphreys.
“She was a botany professor at Mary Baldwin [College in Staunton, Virginia],” Museum Curator Susan Taylor said, adding Humphreys’ tenure included time in an exchange program teaching in India, a rarity for women during that era.
The Mary Emily Humphreys Lecture Series in Biology was established at Mary Baldwin College in her honor.
Humphreys had a bachelor of science degree from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in biology from Duke University.
Her fieldwork after retirement included the Nature Conservancy for Nassawango Creek and the Maryland Ornithological Society. She was a founding member of the Berlin Heritage Foundation that oversees the Taylor House Museum and in 1998 established the Humphreys Foundation that offers grants for nonprofits.
Most recently, the foundation gave matching grants totaling $250,000 to the Worcester County Library Foundation for the new Berlin library.
“And at the Taylor House, they’ve helped with our new irrigation system that we put in and also the sod [newly installed on the front museum lawn],” Taylor said.
Humphreys died in 2009 at age 97.
As for the official stance of the Berlin Falls Park Committee, Vice Chairman Jack Orris said names were a priority – just not the top one.
“We have tossed around naming ideas since day one, and while we feel naming is definitely important and our members have some good thoughts, at this point we are still focusing on usage of the property,” he said.
The Calvin B. Taylor House Museum is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., through the end of October. A July 3 picnic celebration, family friendly and open to the public, is scheduled from 4-6 p.m. The annual Berlin Peach Festival returns on Aug. 4. For more information, visit www.taylorhousemuseum.org.
To view an online suggestion box for Berlin Falls park, visit www.berlinmd.gov/park/berlin-falls-park or email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.