New projects to expand access to Camden’s waterfront and increase outdoor recreation will include hiking and biking paths, canoe and kayak docks, and even a floating classroom.
The New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Camden County announced this week that a $3.2 million anonymous donation will help them to acquire and preserve four waterfront parcels of land along the Delaware and Cooper rivers.
“Camden has long experienced a lot of environmental injustices, and we’re trying to really turn that around and really help people to feel good about what’s right there in their community,” said Stephanie Kreiser of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Industrial development has restricted waterfront access in Camden for decades. Efforts to reclaim that land with the creation of riverside parks include Gateway Park, Cramer Hill Park, which replaced the former Harrison Ave. landfill, and Wiggins Waterfront Park and Marina.
Once acquired, the land will help create a 13-mile long waterfront trail. People will also be able to kayak and canoe on the water. The project is expected to begin in the spring.
The shipping industry has previously warned against increased kayaking on the Delaware River for fear of dangerous collisions. However, Kreiser said greater public access to the water has multiple benefits.
“The Delaware River is a resource to be enjoyed by everyone, not just commercial shipping interests. Kayakers can safely enjoy the Delaware by staying close to shore and avoiding shipping channels,” Kreiser said.
“It’s so important for the health and well-being of the community to have better access to greenspace, and park amenities, and their waterfront, and to feel connected to the outdoors in their community.”
In the fall, a solar-powered catamaran operated by Upstream Alliance will be constructed to offer programming for Camden school students. The boat, which can fit 32 people, wil provide hands-on education for children in grades 4 and above in the setting of a floating classroom.
“What I hope is that in 20 years that every kid will come out on this boat as a part of their classroom curriculum, and I believe if we do that, it’ll change the entire culture of how Camden city relates to its waterways,” said Don Baugh, president and founder of Upstream Alliance.
“Currently the waterways, unfortunately, have been polluted in the past, and there’s not been access for the underserved community and there’s not been a culture of the city embracing [its waterways]. But I believe the boat over time, because you’re reaching into schools, you’re also reaching families, will change how Camden embraces its waterways.”
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