New Report On Camden, NJ, Park Needs
Camden, NJ, 5/12/04: A new report released today by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL) assesses the state of and need for parks in Camden, NJ and sets forth a number of recommendations. “The Role of Parks and Greenspace in Redevelopment” looks at both the past and the future of parks in the City of Camden, including sites owned or managed by Camden County. The report is part of TPL’s Parks for People initiative, which works in cities across America to ensure that everyone-in particular every child-enjoys access to a park, playground, or open space.
The Trust for Public Land is working with The Reinvestment Fund to ensure that parks are included in community development strategies involving housing, jobs and schools. The report was funded by the Ford Foundation.
The report comes at a time when both city and county agencies are looking at the issue and taking steps to move forward on previously announced initiatives such as the Cooper River Greenway. On May 14, 2004 officials will dedicate the first completed segments of the greenway. The Cooper River Greenway was first envisioned in 1925. Since then, acquisitions have been made along the route, but this is the first major completion, involving a paved path, lighting, landscaping, and signage.
To assess the needs and opportunities in Camden, TPL met with a diverse set of stakeholders in Camden over a six-month period in 2003, analyzing the current state of parks and greenspace in the city and the role it does and can play in the city’s economic development. The new report states that Camden has the basics of a good park system with 80 percent of the population living within ? mile of a park. Camden provides its residents approximately 6.3 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents-slightly below the 7.5-acre average of high-density large cities surveyed by TPL.
“Many of Camden’s existing parks could be larger and better managed but the infrastructure exists to build upon. The goal for Camden is to link its parks into a system that serves all neighborhoods, and to add 80 more acres of parkland in underserved neighborhoods, bringing it in line with other high density cities,” said Cindy Gilman, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.
With the help and support of agency and nonprofit partners, TPL proposes to implement recommendations made in the report. Key recommendations include:
- Leverage new park projects with school siting and construction, as well as housing development, as magnets for new private investment. Use the city’s river and stream corridors as assets to create waterfront access for recreation and water quality.
- Create a greenspace strategy for the city’s proposed stormwater management plan that can leverage clean water goals with creation of waterfront public greenways.
- Create a public engagement and park support constituency that can build needed partnerships for city-county financing and parks management goals.
“Our park system is a critical point for quality of life in our community. It reflects the beauty of our city and is accessible, within a quarter-mile, to 80 percent of our residents. Well-maintained parks contribute to the building of self-esteem and pride within our community. Camden is on the move, and our parks will be reflected and included in our neighborhood investments,” said Camden Mayor Gwendolyn A. Faison.
“The City of Camden is committed to the integration of green space in the redevelopment plans. We are pleased with the report the Trust for Public Land just put out and are looking forward to future projects with the Ford Foundation,” said Melvin R. Primas, Jr, chief operating officer for the City of Camden.
“The Camden County Freeholders welcome a strengthened partnership with the City of Camden to protect and preserve city parks, playgrounds and green spaces as part of the county’s open space program,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Edward T. McDonnell, liaison to the Camden County Division of Open Space and Farmland Preservation.
“The greenway in Camden will be an important boost to the quality of life for Camden residents. Our challenge now is to keep its momentum and muster the political will to make it all happen. The county and the city need to work together, and the dedicated open space funding needs to expand to include operation and maintenance,” said Tom Knoche of Camden Greenways, Inc.
“Well-maintained parks are a critical, often forgotten component of a successful real estate market as greenspaces make neighborhoods attractive places to develop and to live,” according to Jeremy Nowak, president and CEO of The Reinvestment Fund which is working with the Ford Foundation, TPL, the city, and civic groups in the implementation of a comprehensive approach to Camden neighborhood investment.
The work of the Trust for Public Land in Camden is part of the organization’s River to Bay Greenway Initiative, a vision for a multi-use recreational route that will span 70 miles of southern New Jersey to link the Delaware River to the Barnegat Bay. By providing linkages between existing and proposed open space sites, the River to Bay Greenway will provide much needed recreational resources for urban and suburban residents throughout Camden, Burlington, and Ocean counties.
“With a restructuring of the existing partnership between the city and the county, the Camden Greenway could become a reality in only a few years’ time,” said Gilman.
According to TPL, city parks and playgrounds make inner-city neighborhoods more livable-especially when they involve community and neighborhood partners; offer recreational opportunities for at-risk youth, low-income children and low-income families; and provide places in low-income neighborhoods where people can feel a sense of community.
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. With a state office in Morristown, TPL has helped protect more than 19,000 acres throughout New Jersey and has created seven new community parks/playgrounds in the City of Newark.
To request a copy of the report, please contact Nina Fondaco at Nina.Fondaco@tpl.org.