BERLIN — Tom O’Rourke, president of the Military Experience Museum in Wallingford, has plans to create an even more interactive military experience in Berlin.
The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed O’Rourke’s plans for development and use of 77 acres near 2590 Chamberlain Highway during a meeting last week.
“The overall concept is to create an outdoor recreational location that’s also a museum or what we call a museum experience,” O’Rourke said. “One of the things that we’ve found is in static museums people go once, they see the exhibits and then they don’t go back.”
O’Rourke said that the focus of this recreation site is to “get people involved.”
“If you get people to participate in an activity, you’re more likely to get people interested in it. Then, hopefully, what they’ll do is go out on their own and learn about history,” he said.
In order to get people involved in learning more about the military lifestyle, O’Rourke said the site will include an orienteering course where visitors will learn how to use a compass to direct themselves. Additionally, the site will include a military-style obstacle course and bunkers that would be replicas from World War II as well as the Vietnam, Korean and Iraq wars.
“Definitely a different concept. I think it would be great for the fact that it could bring people to town. Knowing that Berlin is a very active community, I think this could be a tremendous asset to us,” said Economic Development Director Chris Edge.
Currently, the site will be used on weekends and any holidays that do not fall on a weekend day such as Memorial Day. During the summer, O’Rourke said there would be the opportunity for groups to rent out areas of the site and for weekday operational hours.
Military reenactments would also be hosted at the site on a monthly basis.
“I think the proposal is very interesting. I think we’d have to get a lot of clarity in respect to the reenactments and how that would impact surrounding properties,” said commission member Diane Jorsey.
Chairwoman Joan Veley agreed with Jorsey, saying the commission would need to look into how the recreation area would fit into town regulations.
In 2018, O’Rourke expressed interest in locating the museum on Cathole Mountain overlooking Meriden but the discussions never made it beyond the preliminary stages.