Trust for Public Land Celebrates Opening of Newly Renovated Schoolyard at Rafael Cordero Molina

Today, Trust for Public Land (TPL), Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, and Mastery Schools are celebrating the opening of a newly transformed schoolyard at the Rafael Cordero Molina Elementary School in North Camden. 

Molina Elementary serves 480 students in grades three through eight. Over 6,500 live within a 10-minute walk of the school, making this space crucial for increasing access to the outdoors. 

“For too long Molina’s students and families were forced to navigate around and through large stretches of stormwater and sewage as they entered the schoolyard,” said Justin Dennis, Camden Program Director for Trust for Public Land. “This new community schoolyard offers students and the entire North Camden community a natural, protected park space to learn and gather while providing critical stormwater management.” 

This project included a new Dynamo Spinner, new play equipment, permeable safety turf, permeable pavers, and two large experiential rain gardens with adjacent seating and stepping stones. Combined, these rain gardens allowed for the disconnection of 53,000 square feet of impervious drainage area from Camden’s combined sewer system, resulting in an estimated 1.5 million gallons of managed stormwater annually.  

The project has already reduced localized flooding in the community as stormwater from the roadway is funneled into the rain gardens from an off-site stretch of roadway that has experienced historically severe flood damage.  

North Camden is a vibrant community of approximately 6,700 people, roughly 70% of which identify as Hispanic and 26% as African American. The North Camden community has focused efforts over the last several years to encourage community pride, activating neighbors in creative ways to help improve livability through housing revitalization, vacant lot stabilization, and green space development. 

Safe, green space is not easily accessible in the neighborhood surrounding this school and opening this revitalized schoolyard will work to close the park equity gap. 

TPL’s data analysis reveals that in the 100 largest U.S. cities, neighborhoods where residents predominantly identify as people of color have access to an average of 44 percent less park acreage than predominantly white neighborhoods. A similar pattern emerges in low-income versus high-income communities.   

Nationwide, less than 1% of schoolyards are opened to the public outside school hours and designed with the green space and play features that communities need and deserve. Transforming schoolyards makes a life-changing difference for students and their families. Trust for Public Land is working with communities across the country to create green schoolyards where neighbors can come together to play, socialize, exercise and learn. 

This project was made possible through support through our partnership with Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority and funding from William Penn Foundation, New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection, Campbell Soup Foundation. 

About Trust for Public Land 

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where it is needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit