CAMDEN, NJ — For roughly two years, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has worked to map out sidewalks across the region in order to determine what areas are the most in need. 

The endeavor, which took a big step last fall with the launch of the Greater Philadelphia Pedestrian Portal, will soon be making more progress in the city of Camden. 

Although the Geographic Information System (GIS) data is helpful to get a big picture, when it comes to sidewalks the DVRPC says it’s as vital to tackle the finer details.

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“The Campbell Soup Health Community Initiative provided funding to do outreach around the sidewalk inventory, specifically in Camden. The contract with Hopeworks works toward understanding the data we’ve already collected, to make sure what the consultant collected is accurate,” Amy Verbofsky, a Senior Planner in DVRPC’s Office of Environmental Planning, told TAPinto Camden. 

“Where are the priorities for addressing gaps or deficiencies in the sidewalk network?” she continued. 

About $12,000 has been dedicated for DVRPC’s collaboration with Hopeworks, a nonprofit organization that provides technology training, internship and job opportunities to youths in Camden.

As part of it's efforts, Hopeworks launched a survey earlier this month to gather resident feedback around the state of sidewalks. 

“Some examples of the areas we are looking for are places that need sidewalks, uneven sidewalks that can make the person trip, curb ramps in poor condition or needed, crosswalks with missing or broken signs…,” project organizers prompt online. 

Once Hopeworks collects enough data, it will send workers out to designated corridors of the city to gather more information on the ground. 

“This is the first time we've done this,” Verbofsky said in reference the Camden project area. “As far as this kind of sidewalk database inventory, we just don't have the manpower ability to actually go out and walk however many hundreds of thousands of miles that is. [Taking this step] gets us to really figure out where the gaps are and where we need to direct funding down the line.”

Dan Rhoton, Executive Director of Hopeworks, said he was elated to find out that DVRPC decided to partner with a local organization. 

“They could have as easily reached out to a consulting firm, instead they’re working with us, giving right into the community and leading a triple-win,” Rhoton said over the phone. “These are youth that know these streets and I believe that’ll make a big difference.”

Rhoton said six youth from Hopeworks, ages 17 to 26, are assisting in the project. 

He believes the organization will end up sending workers to North Camden and the waterfront south later this year - however that will be established at a later date.   

“Since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, we will of course have temperature checks, even though we’ll be working outside, follow social distancing guidelines and be connecting wirelessly,” Rhoton said. 

While it’s still early in the process Verbofsky imagines the commission working with Cooper’s Ferry Partnership to access potential funds from the state.

To fill out the sidewalk survey click here.  Explore the Greater Philadelphia Pedestrian Portal by visiting walk.dvrpc.org/.

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