The idea for an interconnected system of open spaces, parks and recreation areas in the City of Camden dates back to the 1920s, when Cooper River Linear Park was first envisioned to include a scenic boulevard, tidal basin lined with cherry trees and a riverfront park. Today’s Camden Greenway project expands that vision dramatically, to include a continuous system of open space for recreation and environmental enhancement along the shorelines of the Cooper and Delaware Rivers and Newton Creek and promotes economic development in adjacent neighborhoods. Through our work in the Camden Greenway project area, New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working to make this vision a reality.
Our work on the Camden Greenway project began in the mid-1980s, when we acquired the first conservation and recreation easement from the Will-Son Corporation, a nursing home operator. Since then, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has assisted the City of Camden in acquiring easements and land along the Cooper River, connecting Camden County’s Cooper River Park with parks on the Delaware River.
In addition to its acquisition work, New Jersey Conservation Foundation recognizes the opportunity the Greenway plan presents for positive transformation in the community. Our Grants-In-Aid program has provided multiple grants to motivate local citizens’ groups to further their organizational development, support strategic planning and incorporate greenways in the City of Camden’s Master Plan.
Redevelopment of Camden’s waterfront is a major initiative and we are getting involved in ensuring that the greenway is a part of the ongoing redevelopment process. The greenway project is focused on providing parks, trails and natural areas for local residents and their neighborhoods demonstrating they are as closely intertwined with each other as the rivers are with the City.
Through a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation, New Jersey Conservation Foundation opened a new Camden regional office. We share the office with the local conservation group, Camden Greenways, Inc., and our professional staff provides assistance with land acquisition and community outreach.
Our work in Camden confronts us with issues that have statewide implications for us in other urban areas. For example, we’re learning how to overcome the technical, regulatory and legal hurdles of converting brownfields into viable parks and natural areas. Brownfields are abandoned, idled or underused industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.
Establishing greenways in the City of Camden positively impacts its communities by providing areas for safe and accessible recreational, educational and leisure activities. These greenways also influence economic growth and community development, which ultimately improves the quality of life for all Camden residents.
In addition, the Camden Greenways project helps demonstrate a statewide interconnected greenway in an urban setting. The project is part of the first public planning effort to utilize data from New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Garden State Greenways mapping project. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission incorporated Garden State Greenways data to develop Camden County’s greenway-based open space plan.
To learn more about conservation efforts in Camden, please contact Justin Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Michele S. Byers,