Berlin Delays Action on Program Open Space Requests

Berlin Delays Action on Program Open Space Requests
Upgrades to existing playground equipment at Stephen Decatur Park were discussed this week. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Town officials are exploring the possibility of seeking grant funding for new playground equipment.

The Berlin Town Council Monday voted to delay a decision regarding the town’s annual Community Parks and Playgrounds grant application. Though staff prepared a grant application for lighting at the Dr. William Henry Park basketball courts, at Mayor Zack Tyndall’s urging they’ll now explore the feasibility of seeking funding for new playground equipment.

“Give us two weeks to see what we can come up with,” Tyndall said. “If nothing comes to surface, there’s nothing that precludes us from saying let’s go forward with the Henry Park lighting.”

Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen presented the council with the fiscal year 2023 Program Open Space Annual Program for Development identifying projects the town wants to seek Community Parks and Playgrounds grant funding for in the future.

“You can think of it as a long-term capital improvement plan for the parks,” she said.

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Topping the list recommended by the Berlin Parks Commission was lighting at the Henry Park basketball courts. Other items on the list included the addition of ping pong tables at John Howard Burbage Park, a skate park study and development of an inclusive playground. Bohlen said the grant application was due in August and that the commission recommended applying for funds for the lighting, as that was the top priority on the development program.

Tyndall said that because the application wasn’t due until Aug. 26, he wanted to explore the possibility of applying for funds for new playground equipment.

“The thing is when you look at the use, I do know of some families that travel outside of town limits to be able to go play at other playgrounds because ours is actually inferior to some of our neighboring municipalities or associations,” Tyndall said. “What I would like to ask the council to do is to consider maybe giving us two weeks to take a look at some other possible options, whether that’s additional playground equipment, something like a splash pad, something that we can add to our parks that could be something that it’s easier for this grant to fund, and then maybe we look at some other grants to be able to fund some lighting at the basketball courts.”

Bohlen said she would need guidance on what options Tyndall wanted explored.

“Are we talking about taking out an existing piece and replacing it?” she said. “Are we talking about developing an entire new site? Putting a piece of playground equipment is not as simple as plunking it down.”

Tyndall said he was in the town’s parks frequently with his son and he’d noticed the play areas were fragmented.

“So I would say that if we’re going to look at something look at something that’s together all in one,” he said, adding that he would forward Bohlen information he’d received at the Maryland Municipal League conference.

Resident Donna Pellinger said she’d love to see an inclusive playground and suggested the council look at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex in Salisbury.

“It’s a great all-inclusive playground,” she said. “A lot of children have been using it throughout the baseball season. It really does give you an idea of what the different playground equipment looks like. I believe you can purchase different pieces and not have to purchase all of the equipment at one time.”

Resident Carol Rose implored the council to keep the basketball court lighting the top priority.

“They’ve been promised and promised for many, many years,” she said.

The council voted 4-0, with Councilman Dean Burrell absent, to table approval of the grant application for lighting while playground options were explored.

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.