The State of Maryland’s $4.2 million purchase of 673 acres of land once considered ripe for development near Berlin is a major acquisition. At the risk of being hyperbolic, we view this transaction as one of the most significant open space deals in the region in recent years and critical for the future of Berlin.
Four years ago, the Berlin Town Council was presented with plans to transform former 36-hole Bay Club golf course property into a 434-site campground. The project would have been allowed by code but require an exception through the county zoning board. There was talk at the time about Berlin potentially annexing the property but the council ultimately in 2016 took a wait-and-see approach as the campground plans were preliminary at that point.
Developing that golf course property into a campground would have changed Berlin forever. Though campgrounds have clearly thrived over the last decade in this area and across the country, the property off Libertytown Road was not the right place for one. The town’s narrow streets and practical limitations would have made getting to the campground a logistical nightmare. Thoughts of wayward RVs cruising through the downtown area and congesting secondary roads around the town were baffling.
A collective sigh of relief should be waffling out of the Berlin community this week as campground plans and other thoughts of a large residential community are off the table as a result of the state buying the properties through its open space program. It’s a wonderful use of the state’s funding.
In the Board of Public Works packet this week included a description of the opportunity to increase recreational trail opportunity for this part of Worcester County. The description read, “The property contains a mix of forests and fields that will be managed by the Maryland Forest Service as an addition to Chesapeake Forest Lands for public hunting and trailbased activities such as walking and wildlife observation. The potential for equestrian trails will be explored. One parcel is a former golf course; fairways and fields will be reforested with a diverse mix of tree species to maximize hunting and other recreational opportunities while protecting water quality. Acquisition presents a rare opportunity to preserve a large tract of land in an area of Worcester County that is experiencing rapid growth.”
This transaction is something Berlin residents and merchants should be thankful for this holiday season. Development of this property would assuredly have impacted existing qualities of life forever. The state’s acquisition will allow for a better use of the land moving forward with a focus on green space and recreational opportunities.