BERLIN – Town officials remain committed to cleaning up Heron Park so it can be reopened to the public.
While chemicals from the spill that occurred in June have been cleaned up, debris from building demolition at the site still needs to be removed. Officials are currently exploring potential ways to pay for that work.
“Early in the year, we’ll finish the Heron Park cleanup,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “It may not be one fell swoop but I think it’s something that can be accomplished.”
A contractor was in the midst of demolishing several obsolete buildings at the 60-acre park in June when a chemical spill was identified. The town spent more than $260,000 on cleanup of the spill but will need to spend more money to remove the debris from the interrupted demolition work. Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood said he’d be sharing information with elected officials on that in the near future.
“We’ll have to see what they want to do,” he said this week.
Fleetwood said that while he’d heard citizens refer to the chemical spill as the reason the park remained closed, he stressed that was not the case.
“There are no known chemicals down there,” he said.
The park is closed, he said, because of the rebar and concrete remnants that remain on site since the demolition work was interrupted.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” he said, adding that while those areas were cordoned off the council, in an effort to err on the side of caution, had decided to close the park altogether.
Fleetwood said he was currently exploring funding options for the cleanup, which he expects to cost around $44,500. He said the town had saved several loads of dirt removed from the nearby submerged gravel wetland project to use as backfill once the debris was removed from the park.
Fleetwood confirmed that the town had yet to hear from the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which are investigating the chemical spill.
In spite of the setbacks encountered in 2019, Williams remains optimistic about the park’s future. He envisions half of the property being used passively and half of the property being developed commercially.
“It may be able to accommodate a variety of uses that will produce income for the town,” he said.
Though the town is still working on cleaning up the site, Williams says improving any piece of property takes time and money.
“One of the things I’ve learned here is when something takes a while to do a lot of people have trouble with having the patience it takes to take on a major project…,” he said. “If everything could have been done in three years everybody’d be jumping for joy.”