Drab to Fab: The Creation of 3 Fabulous Waterfront Parks #onthecircuit in Camden

Across the Circuit Trails region, we are fortunate to have many of our trails run parallel with our rivers and streams, making trails on the Circuit a valuable means of connecting directly to our waterfronts for educational and recreational purposes. And while the Delaware River Waterfront on the Pennsylvania side of the river has seen developments geared toward engaging the community – like the addition of Spruce Street Harbor Park, the renovation of Cherry Street Pier and the continued upgrades to the Penns Landing RiverRink amenities – the riverfront in Camden has been historically less accessible. But that is changing in major ways thanks to our friends at the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, a member of the Circuit Trails Coalition, who are working with community members and partner organizations to address the lack of public waterfront access points in Camden. As a result, they identified opportunities to reshape obsolete structures that inhabited the valuable real estate along the waterfront and in working with other coalition members and government organizations they transformed these spots into fabulous community-focused parks.

Photo courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

From prison to park: Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park

What could possibly be more drab than a prison? How about a waterfront prison situated on the most valuable land in an economically challenged neighborhood? Under pressure from the community, the State of New Jersey closed and demolished Riverfront State Prison in 2010, making room for the creation of a neighborhood park – a vision articulated by the North Camden community. The vision became a reality in June of 2017 when Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park opened. The area that was once a “roadblock to development” is now the bright spot of a neighborhood on the road to revitalization and residents of Camden are now connected back to the riverfront for the first time in years. The park sits on five acres of open space and connects to surrounding Circuit Trails segments, including the Delaware Avenue Bike Lanes and Erie Street Sharrows, which allow for further travel into Camden and alongside the waterfront. Additionally, both trails connect to the Ben Franklin Bridge, allowing for easy access to Philadelphia and beyond.

Photo courtesy of Camden County

From parking lot to park: RCA Pier

Waterfront real estate is highly coveted, so when Liberty Property Trust, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, and the City of Camden, with support from the William Penn Foundation and the State of New Jersey, saw an opportunity to turn the parking lot located on the 98-year-old pier into a community hub, they seized the opportunity. The RCA Pier project offered another opportunity to unlock the beauty and recreational potential of the Camden Waterfront.  The 2.2–acre blend of trails, open space and plant life is accessible from the Ulysses Wiggins Waterfront Promenade #onthecircuit. The RCA Pier opened in May 2019 to welcome arms from the Camden community. In 2020, the park will install a permanent public art display to bring color and movement to the waterfront green space.

Photo courtesy of NJDEP

From landfill to park: Cramer Hill Waterfront Park

One person’s trash is quite literally another person’s treasure, especially when it comes to the development of the Camden Waterfront’s newest park – the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park along the Camden Greenways trail. Funded and managed by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, this current project #onthecircuit is recycling the land that was formerly the Harrison Avenue Landfill by transforming it into a magnificent 62 acre park. The park will open to the public in the spring of 2021, after which the community will be able to enjoy the park’s many amenities including three miles of multi-use trails, a fishing pond, an amphitheater, a kayak launch, sensory garden, picnic areas, exercise stations, and educational/historical features. The park will also feature a 50-foot hill that will offer sweeping views of the Delaware River and Philadelphia skyline.

How many parks have you explored #onthecircuit? If you’re keeping track, make sure to add these wonderful Camden parks to your checklist! As always, let us know how you are spending time #onthecircuit by posting pictures from your adventures. Remember to use the hashtag #onthecircuit and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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