It helps when weighing the future of Berlin’s Heron Park to realize it’s not really a park currently. It’s an industrial site with some green space on the outskirts.
Back when Berlin purchased the 60-acre property – for about $2.75 million in 2015 – one of the reasons was to protect the land from being developed in a fashion detrimental to the town. The purchase was largely supported at the time by citizens because of the potential options for the open space. There was not a lot of consideration given to the dilapidated buildings on the property. It’s these structures that are problematic because they need to be razed and the town cannot afford it.
Berlin should sell portions of Heron Park, beginning with the areas along Old Ocean City Boulevard but it needs to be done so strategically. The parcels under consideration for sale – especially parcel 57 where the former production facility sits – deserve the town’s full attention. The other piece, the 10-acre parcel 410, is valued at $770,000, but is situated close to the park’s pond and green area.
There is much to weigh with these deals, and the town needs to consider all options with the park, especially anything that will cut down on the $200,000-plus annual debt payment the town owes as a result of the purchase six years ago.
We have always seen potential in the open space and pond areas toward the north end of the property. There are ample birding opportunities and without a lot of money improved recreational trails and low-use amenities could be installed on the site.
Before the town fully vets the sale aspects, a clear direction on the skate park concept needs to be decided. If the parcels along the road are sold, we think a skate park would be best suited near the green space on the property or at Decatur Park in the underutilized parking area. There is much to decide on that front, and it was nice to hear some further dialogue on the matter this week. The Berlin Police Department’s $1,000 commitment toward a skate park is a gesture requiring the town to continue moving forward with discussing and planning.
With serious interest now being fielded on the purchase of park parcels, the town is looking to hold a public hearing while also getting an appraisal on parcel 57. Mayor Zack Tyndall has encouraged Berlin citizens to express their opinions now or at the public hearing about selling portions of the so-called “park.”
A major question we have involves what the prospective buyers are considering for the parcels. The price needs to be right as well as the proposed usage. Portions of the park should be sold but only with the right intentions from the buyers.