Council Throws Support Behind Trail Initiative

BERLIN — The ongoing effort to create a network of hiking and biking trails in and around Berlin inched closer to fruition this week when the Mayor and Council approved the Walkable-Bikable Berlin master plan on Tuesday.

In 2011, the Lower Shore Land Trust, along with residents, town agencies and other stakeholders first floated the idea of creating a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly Berlin and connecting the town to a network of existing and future trails and other hiking and biking infrastructure in the area. In the months since, the cooperating agencies and individuals have been working on a master plan for a Walkable-Bikable Berlin, and the Mayor and Council on Monday approved the document, which could accelerate the program.

While the plan is largely conceptual at this point, the long-term goal is to create a network of safe hiking and biking areas throughout the town, allowing residents and visitors to safely access shopping, restaurants, galleries and town services without getting in their cars and searching for parking. The benefits are at least two-fold in that it will encourage healthy alternatives for travel in and around Berlin while reducing emissions and improving the overall environment.

The plan calls for the creation of a “green belt” of sorts around the town’s perimeter to allow hiking and biking residents to easily access the downtown areas and other destinations. The plan also calls for connecting to existing and future local, state and federal trail systems, creating a larger transportation network.

For example, one of the first legs of the plan calls for connecting Berlin to Assateague Island along Route 611 to Route 346 and ultimately into the town. Mayor Gee Williams said the plan has enormous potential but the problem will likely always be how to get across Route 113. In the meantime, the plan calls for creating sidewalks or bike lanes when possible to fill in the gaps for safe biking and hiking.

“We’ve discussed this for well over a year, and I haven’t heard anybody against this idea,” he said. “This seems to have universal appeal.”

Williams said there are plenty examples of successful hiking and biking trails, most notably in Europe where bicycles are a primary mode of transportation.

“I hope we’re all around long enough to see this because this has the potential to be a huge benefit for Berlin,” he said. “We have an obligation to make that happen here.”

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