Commission Seeks Role In New Berlin Park’s Future

BERLIN – Members of the Berlin Parks Commission voiced their commitment to being involved in the future of the town’s newest park this week.

After meeting David Deutsch, the newly hired project coordinator for Berlin Falls Park, commission members stressed that they wanted to play a part in the redevelopment of the former industrial property. They said it was their job to represent the public.

“It is a part of our charter,” commissioner member Patricia Dufendach said. “Because we are the forum and voice for the public, we want to be sure we’re looped in.”

Deutsch assured Dufendach and her fellow commission members that they would play a role in the process.

“You’ve got a literal and figurative seat at the table,” he said.

Deutsch, who spent 23 years as city manager in Bowie, said he was quite accustomed to working with municipal committees. He told the group he was coming into the job with an open mind and was hoping to work with town staff, residents and community groups to create a park that worked for everyone.

“I don’t come with any preconceived notion of what the best result might be,” he said. “I think we all have some great opportunities here to produce a quality project for the town.”

He said he’d visited the property multiple times and saw different possibilities each time. He said the town was fortunate to have such a large piece of public property so close to the center of town.

“I think the key in terms of my role is to solicit as much input as I can get, to hear from everybody in the community, and to distill those ideas down initially to help the decision makers charter a course moving forward,” he said.

Town Administrator Laura Allen stressed that she and Managing Director Jeff Fleetwood would continue to handle the day-to-day management of the park. Deutsch will be tasked with developing long-term plans for its future.

“His focus is on the big picture and trying to reach an agreement with an anchor tenant,” she said, adding that that would ideally occur within the next year.

Deutsch pointed out that while he didn’t know what form the “anchor tenant” would take, the phrase did not refer to a department store.

Commission members said they were eager to see progress at Berlin Falls. Dufendach said she just wanted to make sure they were involved as the property was redeveloped. She said there had been occasions in the past when the commission had been “blindsided” and that she wanted to avoid that in the future. She says commission members are the ones residents regularly approach to share concerns about the town’s public spaces.

“I want to be sure all the voices that we’ve heard, we have a chance to share,” she said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.