Friday, March 26, 2010

Berlin Spring Celebration Goes Green with GBG

Grow Berlin Green has taken its mission to establish Berlin as a model community for environmental protection, conservation and smart growth and put the concept into real projects that will have an a real and lasting on the community.

On April 3, Grow Berlin Green, along with the Berlin Main Street Program, is sponsoring this year's Berlin Chamber of Commerce Spring Celebration.

The event will include the same fun entertainment as previous years, including the pig races, Easter bonnet parade and egg hunt, but will also feature an environmental twist.

This year the event will also celebrate flowers, plants and green ideas. Free seedlings will be given out by the town of Berlin and the Chamber of Commerce will be passing out free seed packets for vegetables and plants. Some of the vendors will feature natural products or green services and one booth will be sponsored by a local landscaper who hopes to decorate the town with beautiful native plants and flowers.

Children who participate in the Easter Bonnet Contest and Parade can make theirs from home using recycled materials, which is a new category in the contest. It's a great way for children to learn that items once thought of as disposable can actually have other uses. For a detailed schedule of all the Spring Celebration festivities, click HERE.

Additionally, after months of effort on the part of GBG and the town leaders, businesses in downtown Berlin will soon have access to a free recycling service for their glass, plastic, metal and paper waste.

GBG and the Berlin Main Street Program have partnered to purchase a large multi-compartment container for recyclables, and the owners of the Globe have generously offered to site the container behind the restaurant.

Earlier this month town officials reached an agreement with Worcester County on a pickup fee. Next up, GBG will now coordinate with the town, the Main Street Program and the Berlin Chamber of Commerce to educate businesses about the new service and encourage all businesses to participate. The container could be in place as early as May.

This is a true breakthrough and GBG should be applauded for playing such an important role in making it happen.

To highlight the importance of energy conservation, this spring GBG will be giving away free CFL light bulbs to students at Stephen Decatur High School and Middle School, and Berlin Intermediate School students. This giveaway will hopefully encourage the parents to purchase these energy saving light bulbs in the future. GBG purchased some of the bulbs, while others were donated by local businesses.

In an effort to spread the word about the group's efforts, and to educate and mobilize citizen action, as well as promote various Berlin activities and events, last week GBG began a major public service announcement campaign on Public Radio Delmarva.

This type of outreach, which reaches thousands, is invaluable to a small community such as Berlin and it's a very exciting initiative.

Managed by a coalition of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, the Lower Shore Land Trust and the Assateague Coastal Trust, Grow Berlin Green is driven by community education, empowerment and action.

The success of this program depends on the commitment of Berlin citizens, businesses owners, educators, students and policy makers. It seems clear that GBG has worked with all of the above to make the town of Berlin a better place to live, work and visit.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sustainable Communities Act of 2010

A three-year, $50 million program proposed by the O’Malley administration would award tax credits for transit-oriented development, the renovation of eligible Main Street districts such as Berlin, as well as other types of non-historic commercial revitalization to encourage communities to promote sustainable living.

The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 calls for the authorization of a tax credit, improvements to the Community Legacy and Designated Neighborhood programs, and changes to the governor’s Smart Growth cabinet. The act calls for broadening the 14-year-old Heritage Tax Credit program as the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit to help stimulate local economies, create construction jobs and support ecologically friendly development. The Maryland Historic Tax Credit Program is well established as a key element in downtown areas and older communities throughout the state.

State officials say the upgraded program will attract and sustain private investment in revitalization areas and projects, preserve the authentic historic character of Maryland communities, advance green and sustainable development practices, and streamline and align government programs and resources. The previous program was restricted to historic properties. The proposal asks that up to 40 percent of the credits be made available to people where they live and work. Revitalized Main Streets and attractive storefronts are vital to the public health of any community and for the cash registers of small business owners.

Although not traditionally thought of as a job stimulus, most work done for historic renovation is labor-intensive. According to a recent study, every dollar of rehabilitation tax credit generates $8.53 in economic activity and each million dollars in tax credits conservatively is estimated to put about 73 skilled trades people to work on labor-intensive projects in the construction industry.
Based on previous successes with the old program, state planning officials say the new program can be expected to leverage more than 3,600 jobs over the next three years without impact to the 2011 and 2012 State operating budgets, adding that because eligible projects will be approved more quickly, developers and contractors will be able to expedite the hiring process.

Credit certificates will be given to projects that are considered exceptional based on criteria developed with the governor’s Smart Growth subcabinet. Developers will receive a credit certificate to secure funding for their projects.

The bill also calls for cooperation among state agencies, including Planning, Transportation, Housing and Community Development, and Business and Economic Development. The Energy Administration is involved to tie historic renovation to green building standards, making it one of the first programs in the country to do so. Bringing in experts on health, labor and energy will help us sharpen the focus on sustainable communities, says Richard Hall, Maryland’s Secretary of Planning.
The proposed Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 would put Maryland in line with federal changes that focus on improved coordination of transportation, environmental protection and housing investments. A new partnership between the Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency was announced by the Obama administration last year.

A Sustainable Community is one that encourages good health and reflects the concept that economic, environmental, and social issues are interdependent and that regions, cities, towns and rural lands must continue into the future without harming the natural resources that support them. Housing, transportation and resource conservation are managed in ways that retain the economic, ecological and scenic values of the environment. These are also communities where the use of fossil fuels, emissions of greenhouse gases, water resources and pollution are lessened.

Reinforcing sustainable communities and making existing towns and cities more attractive for future growth, rural, cultural and historic resources will be better preserved, local economies will be stronger and the state will gain more efficient and economical use of its investments in existing infrastructure such as roads and schools.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Let's Luau!!!

Get out your grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts and mark your calendars for Sunday, March 21 when the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the Ocean City chapter of the Surfrider Foundation present the first ever Live Aloha – Taking Care of the Earth spring luau.
The event is designed to serve two purposes. The first is to provide a fun and unique event to lift our spirits after a winter that was like no other in our area. Toward that end we are pulling out all the stops to make this Hawaiian feast a memorable and authentic luau. Second, and just as important, the luau will help us raise funds for the first the annual Earth Day community cleanup in Ocean City on April 17. (Details regarding the Earth Day cleanup will follow in the coming weeks.)
Our Live Aloha Luau will be a big, fun, family-friendly party at Seacrets featuring traditional Hawaiian food. Polynesian entertainment, including dancing hula girls in grass skirts and flowered leis, and an exotic and amazing Samoan fire dancer, will make the day even more authentically Hawaiian.
The Diamondheads – named after a volcano that cuts along a piece of Hawaiian coastline famous for its surfing – will bring their surf music style to the party. Ocean City’s own BARCODE will also perform. Both bands are waiving much or all of their performance fees for the occasion.
Singer, guitarist and DJ Glen “Honu” Mihalik will serve as the event’s emcee. Mihalik has recently relocated to the area from Hawaii so he brings another layer of authenticity to the luau. Seacrets is graciously providing the perfect venue and many local businesses are donating goods and services that will be auctioned at the event.
The Live Aloha theme is based on a movement in Hawaii that began in the early 1990s on the belief that a community is the sum of the attitudes and actions of its individuals. A cooperative spirit then flows from the individuals whose attitudes and actions are community-concerned, caring and responsible. The movement is guided by values that underlie the spirit of Aloha – respect for others and respect for the land. The Aloha Spirit calls on people to leave places better than they found them, to plant something, to enjoy nature, pick up litter, share with neighbors and create smiles.
The Live Aloha movement encourages sharing and community building to form a common set of actions that all could accomplish regardless of power or income and this community bond would provide a source of togetherness and strength. The Coastal Bays Program and the Surfriders have collaborated for this event because we believe the people who live here truly embody the Live Aloha spirit. Our hope is that the luau will bring people, ideas and resources together for the benefit of our watershed that will carry through to our April 17 Earth Day cleanup.
Much like the Coastal Bays Program, the Ocean City chapter of the Surfrider Foundation works to protect and improve coastal shores and water quality through hands-on projects, education programs, and outreach campaigns. We hope to see you at our first ever Live Aloha – Taking Care of the Earth Luau on Sunday, March 21 from 1 – 5 pm at Seacrets on 49th Street and the bay in Ocean City. Advance tickets cost $25 per couple or $12.50 for an individual and will be $15 each at the door. Children under 12 are free. To purchase advance tickets contact Sandi Smith at 410-213-2297 or