Creek Run Day Camp Protected (NJ)

Evesham Township, New Jersey, 8/13/2002: This week would have been the last chance for kids to enjoy Creek Run Day Camp if not for an arrangement that permanently protects the land from development and put the camp in the hands of a nonprofit organization.

A deal negotiated by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land brought together individual, public and private resources to protect the 37-acre property and ensure its availability as a recreational resource. The project, the Trust for Public Land’s first in Burlington County, is part of the group’s River to Bay Greenway initiative, a multi-use open space and recreational greenway to span seventy miles across southern New Jersey to link the Delaware River and the Barnegat Bay.

The camp was purchased by Project HEAL, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to enriching the lives of children through experiences that provide meaningful interactions with the environment. In addition to the camp that serves more than 300 children aged four to twelve each summer, the group will provide opportunities for children who have experienced such hardships including emotional abuse, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, death and dying, and domestic violence. Children will be engaged on-site in after school activities such as animal-assisted therapy, horticultural therapy, and equestrian-assisted psychotherapy with mental health professionals. Project HEAL will also provide programs for parents and community members.

“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-Executive 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 Keara R. Giannotti, Co-Executive Director.

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.

“Through this project, not only is a beautiful property preserved that protects water quality and provides public access to a natural setting in an increasingly developing area, but the result also complements Evesham Township’s efforts to create a corridor of protected land and provides a home base for Project HEAL,” said Cindy Gilman, Trust for Public Land project manager.

The River to Bay Greenway initiative-developed in partnership with local communities, government agencies and foundation supporters-will provide linkages to existing parks, protect additional land and create new parks. The River to Bay Greenway will enhance recreational resources for urban and suburban residents in rapidly growing Camden, Burlington and Ocean counties and builds on TPL’s successful open space planning and land acquisition efforts in the Barnegat Bay, where the group has already protected more than 9,400 acres. Past acquisitions for the River to Bay Greenway include the 43-acre Lafferty site in Voorhees Township and the 42-acre Lake Worth property in Lindenwold Borough.

The property was purchased using funds from the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, Burlington County, and private funds raised by the Trust for Public Land from the William Penn Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. A conservation easement has been placed on the property to ensure that it will be retained in a natural, scenic and open condition and used for recreation and conservation purposes.

“Non-profit organizations like the Trust for Public Land continue to play a vital role in Burlington County’s quest to preserve as much farmland and open space as possible over the next few years,” said Freeholder William S. Haines, Jr. “The county freeholders are pleased to share in the funding of the HEAL property, especially because of the role this valuable property will serve in providing recreational opportunities for children with special needs. We know that the State is currently redrafting its farmland and open space funding formulas. Hopefully, the new formula will continue to provide funding for these types of acquisitions.”

The William Penn Foundation promotes understanding of and action on important issues facing the Philadelphia region in order to advance a vital, just, and caring community. Through its grantmaking and other efforts, the Foundation strengthens our children’s future, fosters rich cultural expression and deepens our connections to nature and community. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has been a major contributor to land conservation and named the Trust for Public Land co-manager, along with The Nature Conservancy, of an $8 million matching grant to protect ecologically significant landscapes in New Jersey.

The Trust for Public Land, founded in 1972 and based in San Francisco, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, conservation finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. To date, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres of land nationwide including more than 17,500 acres in New Jersey.