BERLIN – A $10,000 donation from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore is the latest show of support for efforts to bring a skatepark to Berlin.
Last week the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore (CFES) presented a $10,000 check to We Heart Berlin to assist in the nonprofit’s efforts to establish a skatepark in Berlin. The funding will go toward park design.
“The Community Foundation recognizes that sustainable and vibrant communities require healthy recreational outlets that bring us together,” said Erica Joseph, president of the foundation. “By investing in our youth today through projects such as the skate park, we are investing in the future leaders of our community. This effort by the community and for the community was a perfect opportunity for us to help make a difference.”
Though We Heart Berlin organized the revitalization of the basketball courts at Henry Park last year and installed ping pong tables at Burbage Park this year, the nonprofit’s long-term goal has been and continues to be bringing a bike and skate park to Berlin. Tony Weeg, founder and president of the nonprofit, said the donation from CFES could put We Heart Berlin closer to other funding sources.
“The Community Foundation donation is big because it gets another group of donors and people aware of our project,” he said. “It opens the door to other things.”
With the $10,000, the nonprofit now has $26,000 of the roughly $60,000 needed for the initial planning and design phase of the skatepark. Weeg said We Heart Berlin is in the process of pursuing funding from the Humphreys Foundation as well. Though there was hope of some Program Open Space funds for the project, Weeg is concerned that the town’s recent reprioritization of park projects—which put new playground equipment above a skatepark—could hurt that possibility. Earlier this month, Mayor Zack Tyndall asked the Berlin Parks Commission to make inclusive playground equipment the top item on the town’s priority list as it seeks grant funding.
“It was a bit disconcerting to see the skatepark dropped down a level at the mayor’s behest,” Weeg said. “While we’re all for a remake of the park, seeing it railroaded through was a bit disconcerting.”
Nevertheless, members of We Heart Berlin are confident a skatepark is needed and wanted in Berlin. Weeg said the feasibility study completed this spring by Salisbury University’s BEACON (Business Economic and Community Outreach Network) validates that. The study suggests a 10,000 square foot skatepark could be built in phases for not quite $700,000.
“The gist of it is Berlin is a great spot for a skatepark,” Weeg said, adding that the town had an underserved population with limited access to transportation.
BEACON’s report reviews the demographics of the town and potential skatepark users as well as the proximity of other area skateparks — those in Ocean Pines and Ocean City.
“In order to get to the skateparks in Ocean City and Ocean Pines, individuals need some mode of transportation as they are not in a walkable distance,” the report reads. “Public transportation is limited, with travel to Ocean City taking almost an hour, and pickup points that are often difficult for youth to access.”
The report, which states a 10,000-square-foot facility would meet local demand, estimates roughly 126 casual skateboarders and 44 core skateboarders in Berlin.
“If 50% of the casual skaters and all of the core skaters visit the skatepark weekly, the skatepark would get 107 visits per week from Berlin residents, with additional traffic from the surrounding area,” the report reads. “The community benefit of a skatepark is significant. The Berlin population does not have adequate access to a skatepark facility negatively impacting the ability of youth and young adults to be able to safely participate in the local skateboarding community.”
The report cites Henry Park as a feasible location for a skatepark, a sentiment also held by Weeg. He’s hopeful town officials will formally declare their interest in that location as well, as having a site determined is a key part of moving forward in the process.
Weeg said that while additional funding was needed, We Heart Berlin members aim to have the $60,000 for the planning and design phase by the end of the year. With the CFES donation and continued word of mouth, funding opportunities that could help the project are expected to increase. Weeg also believes community support for the project, which he sees impacting Berlin in more ways than one, will grow.
“I’m looking at this as an economic driver as well as an outlet for our kids,” he said.