BERLIN– State officials approved Worcester County’s plan to buy land from the Berlin Lions Club to add to the Northern Worcester Athletic Complex.
The Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) last week approved a recommendation from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to commit $1,268,400 in Program Open Space (POS) funding for the acquisition of 12 acres from the Berlin Lions Club.
“We’re excited,” said Kelly Rados, the county’s director of recreation and parks. “It’s something that’s been talked about for awhile.”
Rados said the county had been in conversations with the Berlin Lions Club regarding the property for some time. She said the club wasn’t initially sure how much land it wanted to sell so the county agreed to purchase the 12 acres where the little league fields are now.
“We wanted to purchase the entire property but the Lions Club was back and forth about what they wanted to do,” she said. “We moved forward with purchasing the 12 acres which is where the little league fields are. Us purchasing the 12 acres was giving them time to decide what to do.”
The Board of Public Works approved the county’s plan to use Program Open Space funding to buy the land last Wednesday. Along with purchasing the 12 acres, county officials are also hoping to buy six more acres from the Lions Club. The Worcester County Commissioners last week approved the FY2024 Program Open Space Annual Program, a document that includes plans to purchase six more acres from the Lions Club. The six acres is currently being farmed, Rados said.
“The additional 6 acres to be purchased is comprised of undeveloped land that adjoins the 12 acre parcel that Worcester County is currently in the process of purchasing from the Berlin Lions Club,” the document reads.
The POS plan also includes a proposal to hire an engineer to create a master plan for the entire facility once both Lions Club parcels are owned by the county.
“We’ll upgrade the fields and look at reconfiguring them,” Rados said, adding that staff were already talking about more fields and additional parking spaces as well as possible walking trails. “We’ll list our must haves and throw out a bunch of ideas.”
One of the projects that will hopefully occur in the near future is replacement of the playground equipment at the complex, as it is more than 20 years old.
“Across the county our playgrounds are aging,” Rados said, adding that they were being replaced in order of age. “We’re doing Bishopville in July and then Newark. Northern Worcester will be after that.”
She said recreation and parks officials were looking forward to being able to improve the Northern Worcester Athletic Complex with the addition of the land from the Lions Club, which will retain ownership of the property its building sits on.
She said that while the club could have sold the land to a private entity, selling it to Worcester County ensured a future for the Berlin Little League.
“It made sense,” she said. “It’s already right next to one of our parks. This way we can make sure the integrity of Berlin Little League stays.”
She added that once the land was owned by the county, POS funding could be used for upgrades.
“We’ve done renovations at our other fields,” she said. “We haven’t been able to do that here because we didn’t own the land.”