Visitors to Cooper River Park would have easier access to the popular waterway and more ways to enjoy its views under a $23 million proposal to spruce up Camden County’s favorite park.
The project, under consideration by the Camden County freeholders, is being touted as an investment in the 346-acre park that spans four towns and represents the crown jewel of the county parks system.
“It’s a beautiful facility, our most widely used park,” said Freeholder Jeff Nash. “The goal here is to improve the quality of life for the people who use it and to attract more visitors.
A key component of the project’s $5 million first phase, scheduled to begin in June, is to provide expanded access to the Cooper River through new walkways to the water’s edge, docks that jut into the river and wooden decks that stretch along its banks.
“Thousands of people come to the park each year to enjoy the beautiful river,” Nash said. “It’s always been the focal point of the park. Now, the park is being redesigned to allow the river to really blend in.”
Other improvements include beautifying the park’s entrances, shoring up the eroding river banks, improving athletic fields and removing a wall from the park’s stadium to open up the view of the river.
Phase I of the project, scheduled to get underway in June, will cost about $5 million and focus on the park’s North side from the boathouse to Cuthbert Boulevard.
The project would be funded through a bond to be paid off by the county’s open space fund.
“We feel the time is right to make these improvements to preserve what we believe is the crown jewel of our park system,” said Frank Moran, director of the county Parks Department.
Moran said the park is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year and generates $10 million in county revenues annually, mostly from the crowds who attend the world-class regattas held on the river.
“The park is one of the top two or three rowing venues in the country,” he said. “One event can bring 50,000 people to the park. Our hotels are full.”
Plans to improve river access and views of the water will make the site even more desirable for events, Nash said.
“We’ve heard that the park is a great crew venue but it doesn’t offer the type of view the spectators would fully appreciate so we’re trying to improve that,” he said
A public hearing on the project is scheduled for Wednesday at the park’s boathouse on North Park Drive. The freeholders are slated to vote on the project on April 19.