New Jersey Conservation Foundation Announces Transformational Gift for Camden Riverfront

Nov 30, 2022


CAMDEN, NJ — More people will be able to expand their connections to — and understanding of — the outdoors in Camden through a major urban conservation, recreation and environmental education project announced today by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation) and partners.

NJ Conservation is working with Camden County to acquire and preserve four key waterfront lands along the Delaware and Cooper Rivers, which will become part of a 13-mile water trail and connect to an 8-mile greenway for hiking and biking, developed in partnership with Discover the Delaware.

Work is expected to begin in Spring 2023 on a floating dock on the tidal Cooper River at Gateway Park that will provide access for non-motorized boats such as kayaks and canoes and enable easier access for fishing. Construction of a solar-powered catamaran that will be used as an education center and provide water-based programming for Camden school children and community organizations is expected to be completed in Fall 2023. The craft will be owned and operated by Upstream Alliance, and will be docked at Camden County Wiggins Marina. Upstream will identify and develop an experiential education program used in tandem with the solar vessel.

Funding for the project comes from a $3.2 million gift to NJ Conservation from a longtime supporter donating under the name of Silent Maid 1924. The gift was made to the Michele Byers Legacy Fund, established in honor of longtime Executive Director Michele S. Byers to carry forward innovative initiatives begun under her leadership, including the important work of creating more green spaces in New Jersey’s cities and making them accessible to the community. Byers retired in December 2021 after a nearly 40-year career with New Jersey Conservation.

“The project represents a transformational opportunity to connect Camden residents with the outdoors, and we’re incredibly grateful for the generous gift that’s made it possible,” said Jay Watson, co-executive director of NJ Conservation. “Helping people experience nature in their neighborhood is crucial to the wellbeing of urban residents who deserve to enjoy the many benefits of having greater access to nearby rivers.”

“The Board of Commissioners is thrilled to accept private dollars to supplement and enhance our public resources throughout the county,” said Jeffrey Nash, commissioner of the Camden County Parks Department. “These funds will be utilized to provide access and amenities for our residents throughout our greenspaces, playgrounds and waterways that improve our collective quality of life.”
“This boat will be a flagship for environmental education in Camden and along the Delaware River, providing opportunities and meaningful watershed experiences for students and teachers alike,” said Don Baugh, President & Founder, Upstream Alliance.

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation

New Jersey Conservation Foundation preserves land and protects nature throughout New Jersey’s rural, suburban, and urban landscapes for the benefit of all. Since 1960, NJCF has preserved more than 140,000 acres of open space, farmland, and parks across the state. The organization manages 17 nature preserves, conducts public outreach and education programs, and advocates for sensible land use and climate policies that will protect the health of New Jersey communities for generations to come. NJCF has worked in the City of Camden since 1986 to advocate for trail connections, increase access to outdoor spaces, and engage the public in nature and health related programs.

About Upstream Alliance

Upstream Alliance is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to nature. We dream of a healthy relationship between people and the environment, where people understand and care for nature, making the world a better place for all inhabitants. Upstream achieves this vision by providing powerful, on-the-water experiences for conservations leaders and agents of change who can improve public access, clean water, and coastal resilience, while in partnership with organizations who champion these issues.

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