Berlin’s Heron Park’s Future Remains In Limbo; Advisory Committee May Be Dissolved For Now

Berlin’s Heron Park’s Future Remains In Limbo; Advisory Committee May Be Dissolved For Now
The Heron Park grounds off Old Ocean City Boulevard in Berlin are pictured in an aerial photo. File Photo

BERLIN – Berlin’s mayor is expected to recommend the dissolution of the Heron Park Advisory Committee next week.

Citing the lack of available funds for the park, Mayor Zack Tyndall said this week he was planning to propose to the town council on Monday that the committee be discontinued. The committee was formed in 2017 to come up with uses and features for the former chicken processing plant property after it was purchased by the town.

“I’m hesitant to ask any group to continue working toward something without any funding,” Tyndall said. “I don’t want to waste people’s time.”

The roughly 60-acre Heron Park, purchased by the town for $2.5 million in 2016, has drawn criticism from some residents in recent years. Many of them have suggested selling the park or portions of it.

While the town applied in the fall for a $500,000 strategic demolition grant, Tyndall said there was still no word from the state on whether the town would be receiving it.

“I’d hope we’d hear something this month,” Tyndall said.

Going forward, Tyndall said the town needs to find a way to offset the roughly $200,000 in annual debt service associated with the property. While demolition of the large building would make the property more usable, if the grant is not received the town will have to explore other options.

“What that looks like I don’t fully know,” Tyndall said.

The mayor said that as the committee has noted in the past, the park is made up of two components — the passive nature area and the more commercial section closest to Old Ocean City Boulevard. Tyndall said that while ultimately the town would keep the passive section, all options were being explored for the rest of the property. When asked if anyone had offered to buy any portion of the park, Tyndall said he could not comment one way or the other. He added, however, that the town would consider any offers made.

“It’s definitely something on the table if there were fitting uses for that property,” he said.

He added that the committee had done a significant amount of work regarding the park property and that the information and recommendations compiled would be preserved for potential future use.

Councilman Jack Orris, who served as vice chair of the committee, said he was grateful to committee members for the time they’d devoted to the park.

“The committee discussed many options and great ideas for the property and even, with community input through a survey, realigned the long-term vision of the area with the name change,” he said. “It’s a little bittersweet for me to disband the committee; ultimately though, funding obviously limits what can be done at this point. I’m looking forward for a way the ideas and suggestions from the committee and the community can resurrect in another form for the future.”

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.