CAMDEN, NJ—A former landfill along the shores of the Cramer Hill neighborhood is now poised to be transformed into a 62-acre park offering access to the Cooper River, miles of trails and unprecedented views.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection held a community information meeting Monday night on the progress of transforming the former Harrison Avenue Landfill into the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park.
The proposed park is the second phase of the landfill remediation, the first being the construction of the Salvation Army Kroc Center, which was completed and opened in 2014.
Construction began on the park in March of this year and is expected to be completed and opened in April 2021, DEP project manager Mike Kenney said.
The waterfront park will include features such as an amphitheater, exercise stations, a fishing plaza, over three miles of hiking and biking paths and trails, a kayak launch, a picnic area, a playground, a sensory garden, shoreline observation areas, and a 65-feet vista summit with panoramic views of Camden, the Delaware River, and Philadelphia. There will be two parking lots along East State Street and Harrison Avenue that will provide close to 100 parking spaces, according to Kenney.
Kenney said there will be over 375,000 plantings, and 50 acres of natural resources will be enhanced.
According to Kenney, once the park is completed, security at the park will include eye-in-the-sky cameras; call boxes; guardrails around the perimeter of the park and collapsible bollards at the entrance to prevent ATV access; and the width of some of the paths will be able to accomodate police and emergency vehicles.
“When you see stuff like this actually happening, it gives you hope,” said Vince Williams, who attended the informational meeting. Williams, who now lives in Deptford, has visited his family in Camden his whole life. “What I couldn’t imagine 10 years ago was this … it’s excellent for the city.”
According to Justin Dennis, Camden land steward for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the over three miles of trails in the park will connect to the network of trails through eastern Pennsylvania known as the Circuit Trails.
“It’s also providing that economic viability for people who don’t have cars,” Dennis said. “The trail is one thing, but what this will do for water access in Camden is really a major plus. The Cooper River is an incredible natural resource and recreational resource and because of how the city was planned there has never been that recreational component.”
The open space will include over 3,000 feet of shoreline where the Cooper River flows into the Delaware River.
“From the Kaign Avenue dam, which is where Gateway Park starts, down to Petty’s Island, there’s no recreational access to the water so having things like this that have docks that are close to Petty’s Island back channel ... it's going to help (residents) reinvent their own desire to be involved in these types of projects,” said Dennis.
Dennis said the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working with the DEP in an informal advocacy and information sharing role.
The former 86-acre municipal landfill is in the Cramer Hill neighborhood of Camden, at Harrison and East State Streets where the Cooper River flows into the Delaware River. The landfill operated from approximately 1952 to 1971, but it was never capped or officially closed.
According to DEP officials, the landfill closure involves excavating and redistributing about 375,000 cubic yards of solid waste and soil onto the center of the landfill, installing a passive gas venting system, and constructing a 2-foot thick semi-permeable cap of clean fill material and vegetation.
The project is managed by the DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration and has four main components: shoreline protection, landfill closure, habitat restoration and park construction.
ONRR will manage the the construction project, and once completed, it will be turned over to Camden Redevelopment Agency.