While cooler temperatures are upon us, Camden officials continue to focus on the renovation and investment in Camden's parks.
Investment in parks and recreation is vital to improving the quality of life of any community and Camden is no different. Perhaps one of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership’s (CFP) most essential missions, the agency works to offer recreation programs and create green spaces that strengthen and connect neighborhoods and enhance the economic and environmental well-being of the city.
Recognizing the value of green space, Cooper’s Ferry, the City of Camden and Camden County recently invested over $15 million in the transformation of former industrial sites to parkland and expanded Camden’s current park system. What it means for residents and the region are beautiful new parks, recreation opportunities and an increased sense of community pride.
“Green space is a vital investment in any successful community. When a city lacks parks, it is a barrier to coming together. But when we invest in open spaces, the community bonds. And in those spaces, a happier, safer, more connected community is built. Nowhere is this more evident than Camden,” said Susan Bass Levin, Coopers Ferry Partnership Vice Chair.
City Park Improvements, The Highlights
Just a few months ago the city cut the ribbon at Cooper’s Poynt Park, a beautiful new park on the site of the former Riverfront State Prison just over the Ben Franklin Bridge in North Camden. The development marks the first completed section of the North Camden Waterfront Park, as envisioned by the residents in the North Camden Neighborhood Plan. The park boasts incredible views of the Delaware River, Ben Franklin Bridge, and Philadelphia skyline, as well as a state of the art playground and a multi-purpose trail, which is part of the Circuit Trails, greater Philadelphia’s trail network.
With community gathering space in mind, Roosevelt Plaza Park opened in 2012. The park, designed to reconnect residents to the downtown, is located at the footsteps of Camden City Hall. The park replaces a run-down parking garage constructed in the 50’s to serve Camden City Hall and nearby offices. Due to its location in the epicenter of downtown Camden, Roosevelt Plaza Park now connects the city’s growing central business, education, and medical districts. In addition to serving as an everyday gathering space for residents, visitors and workers, the park also hosts a growing number of community events, family-friendly programming, art installations, fitness classes, lunchtime concerts, and even a mobile farmer’s market. For the past four years, the City of Camden and Cooper’s Ferry designed and installed a “pop-up” installation each with a special theme for the year. These “pop-ups” have brought everything from public pianos to planted rainwater harvesting towers to motion detected light installations and human-powered water features to the community.
Most notably, the park serves as the unofficial headquarters for the popular Connect the Lots program and is home to the program’s signature events Camden Night Gardens, a nighttime light and sound festival held in May, and Camden Jam, Camden’s annual arts and music festival, held in September. Together these events attract nearly 10,000 residents and visitors and showcase Camden’s talent and creativity.
Other recent projects highlights include the construction of a nature-themed “sprayground” at Von Nieda Park in Cramer Hill, the first water play feature in the neighborhood, and upgrades to Dominick Andujar Park in North Camden, home to the North Camden Little League’s T-ball program.
Looking to the Future
The next two years will bring an estimated additional $35 million of investment into new parks, green spaces, and upgraded facilities throughout the city. These include the construction of the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park, a 62-acre park located at the former Harrison Avenue Landfill adjacent to the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is working with local officials to transform the former landfill which will feature trails, a fishing plaza and kayak launch, amphitheater, vista summit, picnic and playground areas, living shoreline, sensory garden and three acres of bald eagle forage habitat. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.
Also in 2018, Cooper’s Ferry expects to break ground on the North Camden Waterfront Park at Pyne Poynt. The 16-acre park will extend a half-mile along the North Camden waterfront from the Pyne Poynt Park’s edge west to 3rd Street. Similar to Cooper’s Poynt Park the plans are a result of the vision outlined in the North Camden Neighborhood Plan by residents and community groups. The park will feature a multi-purpose waterfront greenway trail, boat launch, fishing pier, picnic areas and overlooks to the scenic Delaware River backchannel. The former brownfield site will reconnect residents to the restored natural beauty of their waterfront once completed.
Community parks within the city’s neighborhoods will also undergo improvements in 2018. In 2016, the Camden County Board of Freeholders dedicated $5 million to designing and constructing transformational upgrades to four parks: Alberta Woods Park in East Camden, Reverend Evers Park in Morgan Village, 4th & Washington Park in Lanning Square, and the neighborhood named Whitman Park. Camden County worked closely with the City of Camden, Cooper’s Ferry and neighborhood organizations to design the improvements.
Mayor-Elect Frank Moran perhaps said it best, “the creation of more green space in Camden boosts recreation, helps to protect the environment and most importantly provides an opportunity for our children to run, play and enjoy nature like in any other community.”