Defenders of a Camden community garden plan to march to city hall Tuesday in an effort to save it.
Two weeks ago, the state of New Jersey sent an eviction notice to the Camden City Garden Club that stated 4.5 acres of the Camden Children’s Garden would be taken by March 31st. The acres would be developed by Herschend Family Entertainment, which operates the Adventure Aquarium nearby. The Herschend family would be willing to buy the garden’s rides at fair market value, according to the letter. The state has yet to disclose to CCGC what the specific plans for the property are.
This morning, CCGC released a statement saying it would hold a press conference tomorrow at 4 p.m. at the garden (located at 3 Riverside Drive) and at 5 p.m. would march to Camden City Hall to raise awareness of the eviction notice.
Employees at Camden Children’s Garden view it as a safe haven where children can view educational exhibits on healthy and affordable food. Just under 200,000 visitors partake in the horticultural and environmental programs, grow labs, school trips, festivals, and gardening workshops each year
CCGC was given the option to rent the office and one greenhouse, “which is not enough to run our many community programs or to earn an income with our several economic development projects,” says co-founder and director of the 29-year-old nonprofit, Mike Devlin. The rest of the property — including the butterfly house, gift shop, exhibit, and cityscapes — would be taken away.
“You can’t move those things, they’re attached to the land,” said Devlin. The construction of the garden cost $8.5 million, and improvements in the last 13 years added approximately $4 million, according to CCGC.
The letter said the move was to “enhance the economic development potential of the property.” But Devlin argues that the garden is a source of youth employment and economic development.
“We’ve trained 300 Camden youth, and all but one have graduated high school,” he said. “And 80% of the employees are Camden residents.”
CCGC is currently speaking with lawyers to see how they can contest ownership of the property. “It should remain a city property,” Devlin insists. If all goes according to plan, the garden will reopen in late March, which is the proposed date of the eviction.