CAMDEN, NJ— A maze of ropes and ladders were no match for the students at Cooper’s Poynt Family School.
Within seconds of rushing the school’s new playground, a few students had already reached the top of the jungle gym. Below, their classmates laughed and giggled as they swung from the jungle gym ropes. Others, opting to stay closer to the ground, were happily dizzy from the playground’s new spin wheels.
On Monday, the Cooper’s Poynt Family School celebrated the opening of its new playground, much to the delight of its students.
“This means a lot to me because it makes me love school more than I already do,” said Serenity Delgado, a sixth grader at Cooper’s Poynt Family School. “This playground makes me look at learning in a whole new way, especially the outdoor classroom.”
“It’s a fact when asphalt school yards become vibrant parks, students can learn, play and better connect with each other,” said Mayor Frank Moran.
Monday’s unveiling was just the first phase of a complete renovation of its school yard from a barren black top into an educational green space — an amenity that city officials hope will not only help address flooding, but also provide equitable park access to Camden residents.
Over the summer, rain gardens will be installed along the school’s fence line of State Street and 3rd Street, along with an outdoor classroom and two basketball courts. The project is the result of a partnership between the City of Camden, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority [CCMUA], KOMPAN and The Trust For Public Land.
The project not only gives the school a new playground, but furthers the city’s mission to have an open space within a 10-minute walk of every Camden resident and to eliminate flooding in the waterfront city by 2020.
“The complement of the future rain gardens truly speaks to the importance of teaching the children about having fun, while also addressing the environmental needs of the city that we have to preserve for their future,” Moran said, as he stood on the new playground, with children running around him. “It’s a great combination.”
CCMUA Executive Director Andy Kricun said Monday that his agency and the City of Camden have committed to eliminate flooding in the city’s streets from all but the worst storms by the end of 2020.
According to Kricun, the major cause of flooding in Camden is due to a clogged combined sewer system. Out of the city’s 32 outfall pipes, only one is functioning correctly, Kricun said.
“We have a multi-pronged plan in place,” Kricun said. “The goal is that children should not have to walk through puddles to get to their bus stops, and people in the city should not have flooding in the basement when it rains.”
The plan, Kricun said, involves the creation of green spaces and parks, like the Cooper’s Poynt School playground, to help reduce stormwater runoff; cleaning out the city’s combined sewer system; increasing the size of its water treatment plant; and dredging out those outfall pipes that are buried by silt from the Delaware River. Collectively, Kricun said, the CCMUA and the City of Camden will spend in the range of $60 to $80 million to fix the issue.
“We have the plan in place, it's been designed, and in some places we are already constructing it, like here,” Kricun said at the Cooper’s Poynt Family School, adding that by the spring, more than 100 acres of green space will have been built in Camden.
“The green infrastructure means that less storm water goes into the system, because its soaking it up before it gets into the sewer,” Kricun said.
Moran, in his remarks to the crowd at Monday morning's ceremony, said that the city and its partners will be investing $40 million in its parks system.
One of those partners is The Trust for Public Land, which in addition to the green schoolyard at Cooper’s Poynt Family School, is working to bring three more green spaces to North Camden — the Dominick Andujar Park, another green schoolyard at Mastery Molina and improvements to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge underpass.
“This is our very first green schoolyard in Camden, and we look forward to so many more,” said Danielle Denk, the Camden program director for The Trust for Public Land.
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit that creates parks and protects land for communities across the country. Its mission is to create parks within a 10-minute walk of every community.
The green schoolyard also helps the Camden City’s School District goal of becoming more green and sustainable.
“The new school yard is beautiful, and is an important addition to the school,” said Acting Camden City School District Superintendent Katrina McCombs. “Beyond providing a great place for students to play and learn, I recently learned that green school yards actually increase student attendance and make schools safer.”
The project was funded by a $50,000 grant from KOMPAN, a playground equipment manufacturer, along with additional funding being provided by the William Penn Foundation and the Campbell’s Soup Foundation.