Camden Children’s Garden continues quest to remain open

Representatives of the Camden Children’s Garden and the New Jersey Treasurer plan to meet to negotiate an agreement regarding a contested piece of waterfront property.

At a rally to drum up support for the garden to remain where it is — on a 4.5-acre parcel on the Delaware River — state Sen. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, announced he had brokered a meeting for Tuesday.

“One of our greatest assets in this city is the waterfront. This is a prime location,” said Norcross. “The children’s garden has been here for over a decade, in this location. It’s important. People feel this is part of their community, so we are fighting keep it.”

Three weeks ago the garden, operated by the Camden City Garden Club, received an eviction notice from the state Department of Treasury. The garden operation was ordered to leave the property by March 31 because New Jersey officials want to use the state-owned land for economic development. No specific plan has been released yet.

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The garden immediately abuts Adventure Aquarium, a state-funded development now operated privately.

The Treasury has not released any development plans for the garden site.

The children’s garden, built in 1999 with city, state, and private funds, comprises greenhouses, a butterfly house, play areas, and educational facilities. About 10,000 schoolchildren are among the many visitors to the site each year.

The Camden City Garden Club officials say the club has invested approximately $12 million in the site over two decades.

“Have you ever built anything?” said co-founder and director Michael Devlin. “Everything here is connected to 3-feet concrete footings in the ground. It’s not sitting on wheels. When the state talks about moving it, I can’t just jack it up and roll it away. It’s here. This was the city’s conscious decision.”

Devlin says he has seen a document wherein a Camden city employee, in 1999, transferred ownership of the land to the state without the approval of City Council.

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