BERLIN – The town’s newest park is officially open to the public.
While little has changed at the site since the town bought it, citizens can now wander through Berlin Falls Park just as they can other public facilities. The park, also known as the former Tyson property, was purchased by the municipality for $2.5 million earlier this year. The town’s public works department has spent the spring cleaning up the once industrial property.
“What they’ve been doing for weeks is making sure the areas that might pose a hazard are not accessible,” Mayor Gee Williams said.
Holes have been filled, trash has been picked up and potentially dangerous areas have been fenced off. A sign at the entrance to the site lists the same rules on display at the town’s other parks.
Going forward, Williams says top priorities for Berlin Falls Park include setting aside space for an excursion train depot and creating a transportation hub for the town. Williams has been working with Snow Hill and Worcester County officials on the possibility of bringing an excursion train to the area for some time. Though it’s not clear when such a venture might occur, Williams is confident that it will come to fruition.
“The train excursion will happen sooner or later,” he said.
To be prepared, the town will set aside some space at Berlin Falls Park for a train station. Williams says the other initial project planned for the park is the establishment of a parking area and transportation hub.
“We think this is an ideal location for a multi-modal transportation center,” he said. “I think it’s reasonable to expect as Berlin develops and becomes more well-known we need a place for people to come to our community.”
Williams would like to see people park their vehicles at Berlin Falls Park and then take public transportation such as a tram, trolley or even rickshaw, to the downtown area.
“There’s a whole bunch of different ways for people to get around,” he said.
The current shortage of parking in the vicinity of Main Street is not something he believes can be addressed downtown.
“We’re not going to tear down buildings to create more parking,” he said.
Berlin, he says, is in a unique position in that it can incorporate “multi-modal transportation” without destroying its historic character.
“We have the perfect property from which to start,” he said.
Beyond the immediate goals, town officials haven’t identified definite plans for the majority of the new park. Williams said the area around the property’s ponds would not see much change as it was meant to be used for environmental education.
“It’ll be a nice place for people to appreciate the beauty of our area,” he said.
Uses for the rest of the extensive property will be decided upon in time. Williams said the site would not be used for the town’s existing events and programs but rather for concepts unique to Berlin Falls Park.
“We’re not trying to duplicate what we already have. We’re trying to supplement that with additional uses,” he said.
Two events planned for the park already this year are a July 3 fireworks show and the annual Jeep Jam that takes place during Ocean City Jeep Week in August. Williams said the property was being leased to the promotor for the event this year but that it would likely be held elsewhere in the future.
Berlin’s visiting environmental professionals, Crisanta Rodriguez from the Philippines and Zalikha Zaharuddin from Malaysia, spent much of their month-long stay in Berlin developing suggestions for park uses. Both advocated for ecotourism and environmental education programs during a presentation at Monday’s meeting of the town council. Zaharuddin said interpretative programs, things like tree planting, exhibitions and lake restoration, would be ideal for the site.
“Its main purpose is to get people to acquire knowledge, skills, understanding and values that will motivate them to participate and make informed decisions for sustainable living,” Zaharuddin said.
She also suggested the town install educational trail markers — featuring information on the property’s native species and ecology — throughout the park.