Berlin Trail System Earns Favorable Nod

BERLIN — A move to bring more hiking and biking trails to Berlin passed its first milestone Wednesday when it received a favorable recommendation from the town’s Planning Commission.

“We want to move ahead positively with a general concept,” said Kate Patton, executive director of the Lower Shore Land Trust and a town resident.

Patton presented the commission with a brief PowerPoint outlining the basics of her idea to spread connected trails throughout the Berlin area. She called the plan, “Walkable, Bikeable Berlin.”

“It will provide a healthy living option,” she remarked, suggesting that trails would encourage children to walk or bike to school.

Patton pointed out that 60 percent of children walked to school in 1973. Today, only about 13 percent do.

Patton also informed the commission that Berlin could become part of a much larger statewide trail system.

“They [the state] have a vision for this transportation system,” said Patton. “They’re doing bike trails and hiking trails; moving people around the state.”

Besides the health factor, Patton highlighted how a system of trails could decrease many people’s reliance on gas, helping both the environment and cutting down on costs.

Eventually, Patton hopes to have a trail system that connects with parks in the area. She listed several possible partners for the initiative, including the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, the Parks Commission and the Worcester County Health Department. As far as funding goes, Patton was optimistic about finding grants through Program Open Space, Keep Maryland Beautiful and several other similar organizations.

The commission was quick to voice support of the idea, though there were some concerns with safety and exactly how Berlin would structure the trails.

“My only concern is crossing,” said Commissioner Ron Cascio, who wondered how the trails could safely cross highways and other roads.

Patton explained that there were several possible options — a bridge or tunnel could be built, though both would be expensive undertakings.

A crossing light that displayed a countdown would be much cheaper and would probably be the short-term goal, with construction of a bridge the eventual aim for any connection area.

“There are lots of models out there,” said Patton.

Commissioner Pete Cosby was enthusiastic about the idea and suggested a sub-committee be set up to oversee the program if it got town approval.

After receiving the endorsement of the commission, the next stop for Patton will be a Mayor and Council meeting.