BERLIN — After being endorsed by the Berlin Planning Commission last week, Kate Patton’s proposal to install hiking and biking trails in the area was met with enthusiastic praise from the Mayor and Council Monday.
Patton, town resident and executive director of the Lower Shore Land Trust, presented a general concept to the council on Monday night. While the project is in its planning stages, Mayor Gee Williams believes it has potential.
“I’m very excited with this opportunity,” he said. “I think Berlin is poised to bring more of that [outdoor trails] into our community.”
Patton presented the same slideshow to the Mayor and Council as she used to brief the planning Commission earlier this month. Her presentation highlighted the benefits of a installing a trail system around Berlin, including a likely increase in tourist activity and a general improvement in the health of residents, as trails would encourage people to go outdoors and exercise.
Patton pointed out the number of children who walk to school has dropped significantly in the last 40 years and a trail system could reduce that trend. Additionally, linking Berlin to Assateague via trail would promote cross-visitation between tourists camping at the beach and those staying in town.
“It sounds like a fine idea to me,” said Councilman Troy Purnell.
Though support for the concept was unanimous, the council was realistic about the fact that this kind of project will not happen overnight.
“I don’t have any idea how long it will take,” said Williams, who later estimated the entire process to be as much as a decade or more worth of effort.
There are a number of obstacles that must be cleared before a trail system can be realized. One of the largest of which is an uncertainty about how the trails will cross roads.
“Route 113 is a unique challenge,” said Williams, who also noted that the trail system would be cut by other, smaller roads and intersections at several points, and that steps would have to be taken to protect the safety of walkers and bikers.
Patton mentioned several possible solutions, including bridges or tunnels at certain points. However, she acknowledged such construction would be an expensive and long-term project. In the meantime, something as simple as placing a countdown timer at crossings would solve a large number of issues, at least with the smaller roads.
According to Williams, those countdown timers at intersections wouldn’t be very expensive or difficult to install. While he still wasn’t sure what would happen with Route 113, he expressed optimism.
“Every important project has to begin somewhere,” he said. “We just need to concentrate on what’s doable first, what’s affordable first.”