Local residents, community leaders and Shaping NJ partner organizations took to the streets on May 15 and 16 to assess conditions for walking and bicycling in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden, New Jersey. The health impact and livability assessment focused on ways to make active transportation connections between local parks, schools, community gardens and businesses.
The single most important factor that has helped with the assessment so far has been the wide range of community partners that have become involved and have brought their knowledge and local expertise to the effort. Neighborhood residents, some who have lived in the area for decades and others who are relatively new to the area, took time out of their Friday and Saturday to carefully document conditions that must be improved to make local pedestrian and bicyclist travel safer and more convenient in the area. These efforts were documented in the media, who have helped to get the word out about the assessment. Invaluable support has also included the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority lending their meeting facilities and technical expertise to the assessment, and the participation of Father Michael Doyle, who has been a tireless advocate for improving environmental conditions in Waterfront South for four decades.
Going forward, the biggest challenge is also the key to the whole effort – implementing assessment recommendations. Olivia Glenn, South Jersey Metro Regional Manager for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Shaping NJ partner echoed this sentiment, “We protect open space for the benefit of all. A key to reaping the health benefits of time spent outdoors is safe and easy access to these green spaces. We look forward to learning how we can assist this neighborhood in enjoying and accessing their open space.”
To move forward with implementing area active transportation improvements that promote healthy lifestyles, Tri-State Transportation Campaign is working with local partners to put together a toolkit and set of maps that will incorporate assessment observations and provide recommendations for moving toward the creation of safer streets. As part of this process, we will be working with partner organizations to hold a series of follow-up meetings with assessment participants to discuss the toolkit and to create a concrete action plan for working towards implementation of associated recommendations. These sessions will focus on developing relationships with agency and business partners that can be helpful in moving forward with plans to connect local parks and community gardens with safe streets and trails, ultimately creating the conditions that support walking and biking and the incorporation of exercise in people’s daily lives.