BERLIN — Take Pride in Berlin started as an annual event aimed, essentially at preparing two of the town’s parks for spring but is being repackaged and relaunched this year as a week of raising awareness and encouraging a community-wide cleanup and “greenup” movement.
For the last three years, Grow Berlin Green (GBG) — a coalition of local environmental groups, the Town, and civic-minded volunteers — has sponsored the event. Last year more than 100 people came out to Stephen Decatur Park, Henry Park, and Hudson Branch and removed tons of garbage from the ares, pulled weeds and other invasive species of plants and planted native plants throughout the designated areas. The group has also been a leader in the installation of “rain gardens” around Town and in the parks.
This year, GBG will inaugurate “Take Pride in Berlin Week” which will bring with it more than a cleanup and a hopefully infectious attitude about the way the Town looks. It will kick off the next stage in the Town’s 21st Century profile.
Take Pride in Berlin Week begins 8 a.m. Saturday, April 21 at Stephen Decatur Park where volunteers may register and get their various assignments. The cleanup begins at 9 a.m. and will be followed by a group lunch, prepared by Berlin Ministries United and with music provided by Troy Mawyer.
The after event will also include giveaways of reusable GBG shopping bags, the sale of rain barrels and the raffle of a rain barrel. GBG has been a leader in getting rain barrels installed in homes and businesses throughout the town. Rain barrels help reduce stormwater runoff and provide an excelant alternative cleaning and plant-watering source.
They will also be providing resource packets with more details on how to participate during Take Pride in Berlin Week and well into the future.
But both between now and then as well as for the following days GBG will be pushing the new initiative to spend the week, getting the town a little more in order.
“The goal is to institutionalize the process,” said the Executive Director of the Atlantic Coastal Trust Steve Farr. ACT is one of the primary GBG partners. “The notion behind the week is to get people to do stuff in the homes and neighborhoods.”
GBG expects to provide packets that include tips and instructions ranging in difficulty from constructing a rain garden to being more conscious about electricity use.
By coincidence, halfway through the week — Wednesday, April, 25 — the Town has its seasonal bulk garbage pickup for those whose regular collection days are Tuesday or Wednesday. The expectation is that this will be all the more incentive for people to focus on getting their neighborhoods, homes and properties in better ecological order.
But if the week is aimed at beginning to establish a culture wherein, as Farr said “Every week is Take Pride in Berlin Week, the project will end with the commencement of the next phase of the GBG-coalition’s initiative — Berlin Trial Mix 2012.
Just as the face of the early Take Pride in Berlin events began with a narrow scope that quickly expanded, Berlin Trial Mix 2012 will act as a coming out party for the next big phase in the Town’s approach to better living though ecological awareness.
Slated to be held 9 a.m. at Berlin Intermediate School, Berlin Trial Mix 2012 will be a double celebration. The first aspect is the promotion of “Safe Routes to School” a program aimed at encouraging more children to walk or bike to school by making the trails there plainer and safer. Participants will be given maps highlighting walking and biking routes in the area.
It will also be the first glance of a bike trail plan that could very well add an additional socio-economic aspect to the town, combining helpful living with increased tourism opportunities.
Earlier this month Kate Patton, Director of the Lower Shore Land Trust (LSLT), another GBG partner, presented the Mayor and Council with an update on the bike trails master plan the LSLT was tasked with composing.
The LSLT has enlisted the help of public agencies, including the Worcester County Health Department, the Worcester County Department of Tourism, and both the roads and the bike trial departments of the State Highway Administration as well as local non-profits, such as the Eastern Shore Heritage Council to compose a concept plan that brings together each of those entities’ best interests.
By constructing safe, commutable, trails with worthwhile scenery and stopping points, the initiative will both give people more access to healthful living and entice visitors to the region for the trail opportunities.
The basic idea is to create a network of bike paths from Assateague Island to Berlin and throughout the adjacent areas that both accommodates safe transport and scenic passive recreation.
Although Patton was clear that the first plan will be a concept plan only, she told the council that the earliest draft will be released, hopefully, by the end of May.
That will begin a process wherein stakeholders and experts can begin to comment on the plan — in addition to the aforementioned partners, school officials, police, and property owners near proposed trail development sites will have the opportunity to share their opinions and expertise — with the aim of eventually producing a solid roadmap to constructing the bike trails.
Patton said that, for example, if the SHA has plans for development along a particular stretch that might have a bike trial, the two entities might be able to provide mutual aid. Another case, especially since ecological preservation is an important aspect, might be that a trail is slated for an area that has stormwater management issues. Should that occur — which is pretty likely given Berlin’s stormwater difficulties — the trail construction can take those issues into account.
The Maryland Coastal Bays Program — another GBG partner — was recently given stewardship of the Adkins Property, about 400 acres along Assateague Road. Patton said it is possible a trail could be developed that takes that land into account.
The parcel not only provides the opportunity for a bike route to the Ayres Creek Kayak launch in West Ocean City, but could also act as the halfway point between Assateague Island and Berlin.
“Long before we attracted people from Ocean City we attracted people from Assateague,” Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said at last week’s meeting. By increasing the route’s safety and also building in stopping points along the way, the ability to entice more people from Assateague for a day trip to Berlin can only improve.
“The whole area will benefit,” Patton said.
By partnering with Tourism and business, as well as putting up historic place markers in conjunction with the Eastern Shore Heritage Council, the trail could legitimately be all things to all people, improving resident health, visitor recreations opportunities, and merchant marketability.
For more information on any of the programs in the article call 410 629-1538, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the participating groups’ Websites:
Grow Berlin Green – www.growberlingreen.net
Assateague Coastal Trust – www.actforbays.org
Lower Shore Land Trust – www.lowershorelandtrust.org
Maryland Coastal Bays Program – www.mdcoastalbays.org
Town of Berlin – www.berlinmd.gov