BERLIN – Residents will be able to play basketball at Henry Park until 11 p.m. following a decision by town officials this week.
The Berlin Town Council on Monday voted 4-0 to allow residents to use the new lights at Henry Park’s basketball courts until 11 p.m.
“If it’s a problem we can change it,” resident Mary Hedlesky said.
Thanks to a $111,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Community Parks and Playgrounds Program, the town recently installed lights at the Henry Park basketball courts. Residents will soon be able to continue their basketball games into the dark, with LED bulbs atop 60-foot poles to light the courts.
Town officials surveyed area residents earlier this month to get their input on the hours for the lights. Though there was initially talk of having the lights available until 11 p.m., like the lights at the tennis courts in Stephen Decatur Park, Police Chief Arnold Downing and Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols expressed concern with the late hour.
Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said this week that the town had received five responses to its survey. Two people wanted the lights available until 9 p.m., two people wanted the lights until 11 p.m. and one person said there should be no lights at the courts.
Mike Wiley, chair of the town’s parks commission, said he’d heard little from the public about the issue. Resident Tony Weeg said he’d seen folks using the tennis courts until 11 p.m. and said that whether the Henry Park lights were used that late or not, he didn’t want to see any changes at Stephen Decatur Park.
“Changing Decatur Park would be an absolute mistake,” he said.
He pointed out that the sunset was late in the summertime and having a 9 p.m. shutoff for the lights would defeat the purpose of having them.
Resident Gina Velong said that she occasionally turned on one of the court lights at Stephen Decatur Park for added safety in the evening when she was walking her dog.
James Briddell said he was building a house on the lot right next to Henry Park and that he wanted his grandchildren to have somewhere safe to play, even if it was later in the evening.
“I’m in favor of the lights being on at least until 10 p.m.,” he said.
When asked if he’d support the lights being on until 11 p.m., Briddell said he would and felt that if there were any problems officials could revisit the issue. Hedlesky agreed and said the courts could provide recreational opportunities for teenagers.
“We really don’t have a lot of options for 12- to 18-year-olds,” she said.
Councilman Jay Knerr asked if the lighting would impact neighboring residences. Tim Lawrence, the town’s electric utility director, said the light would not extend onto neighboring properties.
Councilman Jack Orris said he thought that both parks should have the same hours for their lights and made a motion to allow the Henry Park lights to be used until 11 p.m. He stressed that if people had any concerns once the lights were being used, they should contact the Berlin Police Department.
The council voted 4-0, with Nichols absent, to set an 11 p.m. cutoff for the lights.