Residents of Camden’s Waterfront South neighborhood walk and ride bicycles. They grow food in community gardens. They work with local agencies to see the construction of new parks and to push for reductions in truck traffic in residential areas. And thanks to the generous support of the ShapingNJ program, they now have a concrete plan to build on their significant successes and to connect community spaces, places where local food is grown and the Delaware River waterfront with safer active transportation routes.
The culmination of the ShapingNJ grant work has resulted in the creation of a toolkit entitled “Walking Towards the Green” that residents and Camden agencies and non-profits are using to make a concerted push for a healthier neighborhood. There were many significant steps leading up to this point. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- ShapingNJ partners Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation expanded the initial reach of the project by working with local residents and key volunteers from organizations that are based in Waterfront South, including Heart of Camden, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Sacred Heart Church, the District Council Collaborative Board, the Center of Environmental Transformation and the South Jersey Port Corporation, as well as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection;
- Over twenty-five neighborhood residents and project partners took to the streets on May 15 and 16 to assess conditions for walking and bicycling in Waterfront South and focused on ways to make active transportation connections between local parks, schools, community gardens and businesses;
- The Waterfront South “walking audit” and the efforts of local residents to improve the health of their neighborhood received coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer;
- Five community meetings were held to discuss concerns related to walking and bicycling, to plan for the walking audit, to determine local priorities and to create action steps to lead towards implementation of recommendations included in the toolkit.
By participating in the walking audit, local residents became extremely knowledgeable about design features that make walking and bicycling safer. They were able to take what they had learned and pointed out roadway safety deficiencies, while also recommending specific solutions. Being empowered with this knowledge has led to a strong interest in ensuring that toolkit recommendations are implemented.
Even though the ShapingNJ grant period is coming to a close, Waterfront South neighbors and participants are dedicated to continuing the work that began through this process. Specifically, local residents will be focusing on improving the intersection of 4th Street, Carl Miller Boulevard and Ferry Avenue, which was found to be particularly wide and dangerous. They will also seek to have features installed on local roads that lead to this intersection to slow down motor vehicles and reduce the amount of truck traffic. Finally, project participants are assisting the Camden County Municipal Utilities authority in their efforts to create a trails loop between Phoenix Park, Liney Ditch Park and the Father Doyle Fishing Pier.
Representatives that have been part of the process of creating the toolkit will be meeting with City of Camden officials and making presentations to public safety groups, business leaders and the media, as well as seeking funding to design the improvements suggested in the toolkit. By continuing to develop relationships with agency, city and business partners, residents will move towards the goal of connecting local parks and community gardens with sidewalks and trails, helping to increase access to walking and bicycling, which will in turn give the Waterfront South neighborhood greater opportunities to incorporate exercise into residents’ daily lives and to improve the overall health of the community.