Berlin To Seek Open Space Funds

BERLIN – Berlin elected officials voted to pursue Program Open Space (POS) funds for four town park projects this year, making up for two years of letting the grant money sit unused.

The town has been assigned $247,000 in POS funds in the last two years but has not taken advantage of it to date.

Worcester County passes Maryland Program Open Space funds through to its municipalities, which most counties do not do, but funds unused by Berlin, Snow Hill, and Pocomoke City will revert back to the county if not encumbered this summer.

The long delayed Parks Master Plan heads Berlin’s open space projects list. The plan would collect data on the infrastructure and physical make up of the parks, survey public use, and solicit public input, to determine future uses and development of Berlin’s green public spaces.

With an estimate of $23,500 for the work from a local planning company, grants administrator Mary Bohlen told the Berlin Town Council that she will ask for $25,000 in POS grant funds, which will cover minor changes in the price.

POS money may only be used for planning work once a year by each county, and until this year, Worcester County has taken advantage of that slot. Funding is meant for park development and parkland purchases.

Bohlen said the town would also pursue $10,000 for nature trail signs and a picnic area in Stephen Decatur Park.

Staff is still working on a partnership with a state agency to create the content of the signs, describing flora and fauna, to be submitted to a sign maker.

The Stephen Decatur Park playground will also see the largest and oldest apparatus replaced, if the grant request for $210,000 is approved.

Plans also call for the addition of fitness trail stations to the new scrap tire path now under construction at Stephen Decatur Park.

The $30,000 in POS money would cover the stationary pieces of equipment and instructional signs.

The Berlin Parks Commission has wanted to add a senior fitness trail to Stephen Decatur Park and the exercise stations would fulfill that desire, Bohlen said.

Williams inquired about the chances the grants will be approved.

“We’ve never had a [POS] grant disapproved,” Bohlen said. “Sometimes it can take a little while.”

The town should hear decisions on the requests by the fall, she said.