More people will be able to expand their connections and understanding of the outdoors in Camden through a major urban conservation, recreation and environmental education project announced today by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation) and its partners.
NJ Conservation is working with Camden County to acquire and preserve four key waterfront lands along the Delaware and Cooper rivers, which will become part of a 13-mile water trail and connect to an 8-mile greenway for hiking and biking, developed in partnership with Discover Delaware.
Work is expected to begin in the spring of 2023 on a floating dock on the tidal Cooper River at Gateway Park that will allow access to non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks and canoes and provide easier access for fishing.
Construction of a solar-powered catamaran that will be used as an education center and provide water-based programming for Camden school children and community organizations is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023 .
The vessel will be owned and operated by Upstream Alliance, and will be docked at the Camden County Wiggins Marina. Upstream will identify and develop an experiential education program used in conjunction with the solar vessel.
Funding for the project came from a $3.2 million gift to NJ Conservation from a longtime supporter who gave under the name Silent Maid 1924.
The gift was made to the Michele Byers Legacy Fund, established in honor of longtime Executive Director Michele S. Byers to carry forward innovative initiatives started under her leadership, including the important work of creating more green spaces in cities in New Jersey and make them accessible to the community. Byers retired in December 2021 after a nearly 40-year career with New Jersey Conservation.
“The project represents a transformative opportunity to connect Camden residents to the outdoors, and we are incredibly grateful for the generous gift that has made it possible,” said Jay Watson, co-executive director of NJ Conservation. “Helping people experience nature in their neighborhood is crucial to the well-being of urban residents who deserve to enjoy the many benefits of having greater access to nearby rivers.”
“The Board of Commissioners is excited to accept private money to supplement and improve our public resources throughout the county,” said Jeffrey Nash, commissioner of the Camden County Parks Department. “These funds will be used to provide access and amenities for our residents to our green spaces, playgrounds and waterways that enhance our collective quality of life.”
“This vessel will be a flagship for environmental education in Camden and along the Delaware River, providing meaningful watershed opportunities and experiences for students and faculty alike,” said Don Baugh, president and founder of Upstream Alliance.
About the New Jersey Conservation Foundation
The New Jersey Conservation Foundation preserves the land and protects nature in New Jersey’s rural, suburban and urban landscapes for the benefit of all.
Since 1960, NJCF has conserved more than 140,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks across the state.
The organization manages 17 nature preserves, conducts education and public outreach programs, and advocates for wise land use and climate policies that will protect the health of New Jersey communities for generations to come.
NJCF has worked in the City of Camden since 1986 to advocate for trail connections, increase access to outdoor spaces, and engage the public in nature and health-related programs.
About Upstream Alliance
Upstream Alliance is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people with nature.
We dream of a healthy relationship between people and the environment, where people understand and care for nature, making the world a better place for all its inhabitants.