By Emily Ranson - January 30, 2015
This week kicked off with me in Somerset County and the town of Berlin on the Eastern Shore where I met with county officials in Somerset and presented to the town council in Berlin. Last spring the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore awarded us a grant to conduct work in the Tri County Area: Salisbury, Berlin, and Somerset. For this round of meetings I brought with me Matt Wempe from Bikeways, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s funding source for counties and local jurisdictions. This is a vital funding source for bicycle projects across the state and has helped locals pay for major projects, for example the study for a trail connecting Berlin and Assateague, as well as minor retrofits, such as bike lanes and wayfaring signs in Salisbury.
In Somerset we received updates on the Westover to Crisfield Rail Trail. This approximately 15 mile trail will connect Westover to Crisfield along an abandoned rail bed. To pair with this fantastic amenity, the county is also looking at developing a network on on-road cue sheets and “trails” that take advantage of their wide shoulders, flat topography, and rich Chesapeake heritage. I will return to Somerset in the future to assist the county as they make logical and impactful bike improvements, address concerns at community meetings, and give any other advice and assistance that the county and communities need to improve bike-ability.
In Berlin we touched bases with the Lower Shore Land Conservancy‘s Kate Patton, who has been spearheading a lot of Berlin’s recent bike improvements. While her organization focuses on preserving land and keeping it out of development, they also want residents and visitors to be able to interact with and appreciate natural resources. Trails are a great way to experience natural amenities for health, recreation, and transportation. The town council and mayor in Berlin have been completely supportive of her efforts, and many residents in the town and surrounding area have participated in focus groups on what a “Walkable, Bikeable Berlin” even looks like. The town has three trail priorities and an adopted plan, far more than what many jurisdictions around the state have. Coming up they have community meetings to brainstorm how they want to the town to develop and what amenities they prioritize.
Berlin is well on their way to becoming a bicycle friendly community. As they navigate this process we will be there to provide guidance, advice, and any other assistance they need.