Camp Creek Run Expansion Includes Plans for Counseling Center (NJ)

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced the conservation of ten acres in Marlton, which were added to Camp Creek Run. The deal also included a house that will be converted into a counseling center to target children considered “at risk,” bringing them together with livestock and other animals, and introducing gardening as therapy.

Camp Creek Run, nestled in the woods alongside Barton’s Run, is more than just a day camp. It’s part of Project HEAL (Human, Environmental and Animal Links), which strives to connect children and the community to the environment. Executive directors Keara Gianotti and Tami Grovatt aim renovate the house as a counseling center to expand its programs to include services to children who have experienced such hardships as emotional abuse, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. This counseling program will include such techniques as nature therapy and animal-assisted therapy, all under the guidance of mental health professionals.

This day camp for children four to 12 years of age in southern New Jersey would have closed in 2002 if it weren’t for TPL, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, which worked to find funding and a buyer that not only kept the 37-acre camp open but also offers nature-based programming throughout the year. The camp connects with TPL’s River to Bay Greenway, a 70-mile multi-use recreational greenway that stretches across southern New Jersey from the Delaware River to Barnegat Bay.

“If by visiting this camp children get an experience they might not have otherwise had-if we can help transform tears into smiles-then the work we have done here is well worth the effort,” said TPL Project Manager Cindy Roberts.

Project HEAL is committed to enriching the lives of children through experiences that provide meaningful interactions with the environment, deepen connection to community, and develop the human/animal bond.

“We use the environment as a context for healing, not just learning,” said project co-director Keara Giannotti. “Respect for the self, respect for others, and respect for all living things-this embodies what we are about at Project HEAL.”

“We are thankful to The Trust for Public Land representatives who advocated diligently on behalf of Project HEAL to help us achieve our land acquisition goals. Because of their support, we will be able to teach program participants to honor and preserve the earth,” said Tami L. Grovatt, co-director.

“We are excited to be able to continue providing the summer day camp that is open to all community residents, and look forward to offering counseling services to specialized groups of children during the school year,” said Giannotti.

In addition to its summer camp, Project HEAL also offers year-round eco-study classes for children, family nature programs, and environmental education activities for school groups.

In addition to the camp resources and the flora and fauna that make their home on the densely wooded portion of the property, the arrangement also protects water quality and provides recreational opportunities. A stream flowing through the heart of the property is part of the headwaters of Rancocas Creek, a focus of Burlington County’s Open Space Program. A spring-fed lake is used for fishing and swimming. Preservation of the site offers the ability to extend Evesham Township’s greenway efforts along Barton’s Run, provides a buffer to the suburban edge to the west, and creates an oasis of useable open space available to the community. An existing loop trail on the property will be open to the public for hiking, biking and nature study.

The $210,000 property was purchased using funds from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, Burlington County, and The Trust for Public Land through a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“The Department of Environmental Protection is proud to have played a part in helping to fund this worthwhile project,” said DEP Green Acres Administrator John Flynn. “Thanks to the efforts of our funding partners, the children who participate in Project HEAL will have more opportunities to interact with nature and enjoy the beauty of this undeveloped gateway.” The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 2.4 million acres of land nationwide including more than 23,000 acres in New Jersey.