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With an abundance of caution, businesses begin to reopen at Historic Savage Mill

The Berkley family — Zachary, 9, Jennifer, and Max, 12 — at Terrapin Adventures at Historic Savage Mill.
The Berkley family — Zachary, 9, Jennifer, and Max, 12 — at Terrapin Adventures at Historic Savage Mill. (Katie V. Jones / HANDOUT)

As she climbed farther and the high ropes challenge course became more difficult at Terrapin Adventures in Savage Mill, Jennifer Berkley became more aware of her face mask.

“I would have been short of breath anyway, but was more so with the mask,” said Berkley, who was visiting the park for the first time with her two sons, Max, 12, and Zachary, 9.

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Everyone is now required to wear masks while doing activities at Terrapin Adventures, which opened the last weekend of May after undergoing extensive preparation to ensure both staff and participants would be safe from not only the physical demands of the course but COVID-19.

“It’s been a little hectic here,” said Terrapin Adventures owner Matt Baker. “We’re looking to welcome people here who enjoy being outside, getting some exercise and having some fun.”

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After months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses at and around Historic Savage Mill are now allowed to open their doors. Staff members are working hard to ensure that once the OK is given, Historic Savage Mill will be able to safely open all its retailers to business.

“We are putting plexiglass sneeze guards in place, social distancing guides on the floor and have eliminated in all the common areas things that can be picked up and put down like fliers and business cards,” said Erin Collier, director of operations at Historic Savage Mill.

In preparation for its reopening Friday, the staff at HorseSpirit Arts Gallery completely redid the gallery, removing, cleaning and rehanging the majority of the gallery’s works, according to owner Robin Holliday.

“We’re being really thoughtful and caring and safe,” Holliday said. “I want this to be a safe place people can come and take a break.”

Robin Holliday and her husband prepare for HorseSpirit Arts Gallery's reopening on Friday.
Robin Holliday and her husband prepare for HorseSpirit Arts Gallery's reopening on Friday. (Katie V. Jones / HANDOUT)

The Mill has worked with each business separately, on various concerns, from rents to reopening. All retailers will also receive a safe store kit that includes disinfectant spray for counters, hand sanitizer, a calculation on how many customers should be allowed in each store and face masks, Collier said.

“We wanted to eliminate all variables to make it easy to open,” Collier said. “Finding sanitizer was a struggle.”

Historic Savage Mill also informed the businesses that the HVAC/heating units were cleaned and updated to ensure its ventilation systems had air filters that met the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value to prevent fewer dust particles and contaminants passing through, according to Collier.

“It is a shared ventilation system. Everyone can see who they are connected with,” Collier said. “Filters were maintained or replace. All filters have an approved MERV rating.”

Most helpful to its merchants, according to Holliday, is the constant updates The Mill staff has provided its tenants regarding funding and grants available to them.

“I have applied for five loans and seven grants,” Holliday said. “It is hard getting them through, however.”

While Rustiq Bakery and Café has been able to open for carryout and delivery, the closing of Rams Head Tavern has left a void in food options for the many people who use the trails. A series of food trucks has been arranged, Collier said, with outdoor seating available in the Mill’s courtyards.

At Terrapin Adventures, the staff has limited parts of its various courses that require close contact between staff and the participant or would prove to be too difficult to clean properly. All helmets and harnesses are only used by one participant a day and receive a deep cleaning daily that meets industry standards, according to Baker. Two hand-washing stations were also set up.

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“There is a lot of anxiety over everything,” Baker said. “We are being cautious about things.”

For the families out on the first Sunday of June, the courses at Terrapin Adventure were a welcome reprieve from the past few months.

“Did we have a conversation about this? Yes,” said Rachael Cole, who was there with her family. “If it was an indoors program, we probably would not be here.”

Her son, Aaron, 9, was all smiles about the park’s various challenges, especially the swing.

“It’s just fun. I like the sudden exhilaration, especially since I’ve been stuck at home,” Aaron said. “This place is the best.”

The Berkley family was also excited to be doing things outside.

“They haven’t been doing anything outdoors,” Jennifer Berkley said, of her sons. “This has been great for them. It is a great way to be outside and do something with the family.”

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