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Gateway Park opening celebrated in Camden

Mar 11, 2019

CAMDEN – New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its partners today celebrated the official opening of Gateway Park, 25 acres along the Cooper River that will provide local residents with access to nature and outdoor recreation.

“We’re very excited to be part of the revitalization of Camden,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which will manage the park. “Gateway Park will be a great place for Camden residents to walk, exercise, picnic, fish

Parks and Forestry Director Olivia Glenn at Gateway Park Opening, March 11, 2019

and enjoy nature. We look forward to the park becoming a vital part of this thriving urban community.”

 

A nonprofit with a local office in Camden, New Jersey Conservation will manage the park along busy Admiral Wilson Boulevard in cooperation with the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA), the owner of the land.

Speakers at today’s ceremony included Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, who served as master of ceremonies, Camden native Olivia Glenn, director of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, Camden Mayor Frank Moran and Pennsauken Township Mayor Jack Killion. Also speaking were John T. Hanson, chief executive officer of the Delaware River Port Authority, Andy Kricun, executive director of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Kevin Barfiel, president of the Camden County NAACP, and Martha Chavis, executive director of the Camden Area Health Education Center.

“I am both a Camden city native and a current Pennsauken township resident. This journey to open the park has been a dream for me for decades,” said Olivia Glenn, director of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry. “This accomplishment today proves that environmentalism fosters democracy and civic engagement.  Build upon these gains and Gateway Park will be a shining success for current and future generations.”

Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, a bald eagle flew overhead – a common occurrence at this riverside park.

The opening of Gateway Park adds to the growing list of parks that are providing the Camden community with new opportunities to access the Cooper and Delaware rivers and enjoy nature and scenic waterfront views.

Other recent parks include the Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park on the site where the Riverfront State Prison once stood, the ongoing transformation of the long-abandoned Harrison Avenue landfill into Cramer Hill Waterfront Park next to the Kroc Center, and the conversion of the formerly industrialized Petty’s Island into a 400-acre urban nature preserve.

Gateway Park features a half-mile of frontage along the Cooper River, a Delaware River tributary. The linear park stretches along Admiral Wilson Boulevard from The Pub in Pennsauken to the Hess station near Campbell Place. It is across the river from Farnham Park and immediately downstream from Cooper River Park.

Twenty Year Effort

The opening of Gateway Park has been two decades in the making. The land was originally acquired by the Delaware River Port Authority in the lead-up to the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Wanting to improve the appearance of Admiral Wilson Boulevard – which serves as a gateway between Philadelphia and New Jersey – the Port Authority bought and demolished a strip of seedy, run-down buildings.

The Port Authority planted grass and built an asphalt walkway, but the property was not open to the public. Parts of the property had been occupied by gas stations whose tanks leaked petroleum products into the ground. Soil remediation and testing would be needed before the park was safe for community use.

During the past few years, an extensive environmental cleanup of the property was completed and the Port Authority turned the land over to the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority at no cost. The CCMUA entered into a partnership agreement for New Jersey Conservation Foundation to manage the park and create programs for the public.

Gateway Park connects to the Circuit Trails, a network of pedestrian and bicycle trails throughout the greater Camden-Philadelphia area. Potential future improvements include a boat ramp for canoe and kayak access to the Cooper River and “green infrastructure” to mitigate flooding and protect water quality.

Active in Camden since 1986

New Jersey Conservation began working in the City of Camden in 1986, with the long-term vision of establishing a greenway along the Cooper River. More than 30 years later, New Jersey Conservation is working closely with numerous community partners to provide access to nature and waterways, education programs and recreation opportunities.

New Jersey Conservation is a lead partner in the Circuit Trails Coalition, which is creating a network of pedestrian and bicycle trails that will eventually encompass 750 miles in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; and part of the Alliance for Watershed Education, which organizes programs like kayak trips to help the community become more connected to waterways and protecting water quality.

New Jersey Conservation recently received a New Jersey Health Initiatives grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to improve health and health equity in Camden. New Jersey Conservation is utilizing new mapping and planning tools to help its Camden partners ensure that all residents have access to clean air, clean water, safe parks and trails, community gardens and places to enjoy nature.

For over a decade, the William Penn Foundation has been a strong supporter of New Jersey Conservation’s work in Camden.

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation’s programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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By Michele S. Byers,
Executive Director