Fed Funds bring Camden Water Trail closer

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Credit: dsearls via Creative Commons under CC BY 2.0
Aerial view of the Delaware River flowing around Petty’s Island, which will be part of the planned water trail in Camden.

Plans for a water trail in Camden were strengthened on Monday with the announcement of new federal funding of $ 500,000 to help the project become a reality.

The grant was part of $ 11.5 million from two funds administered by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to more than 40 local groups in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware working to improve the natural environment in the Delaware River basin.

In Camden, the new money is speeding up the completion of the planned 13-mile trail that will allow kayakers, canoeists and small powerboats to navigate the Delaware and Cooper Rivers, through dense urban neighborhoods and long-neglected natural sites.

The idea of ​​the aquatic trail, said Don Baugh, president of the Upstream Alliance – the nonprofit that received the money – is to reconnect residents of one of America’s poorest cities with the rivers which surround them, and which represent a largely inaccessible recreational asset.

“A city of water”

“Camden is truly a water town but it’s been walled off by pollution, and it’s an opportunity to connect people to its most vital open space,” Baugh said after a press conference to announce the global funding. . “Its waterways just haven’t been there for them, but now they can be there for them, and I think it will be a transformation for the town of Camden and surrounding areas.”

In a city of 74,000 inhabitants where the median household income was $ 27,000 from 2015 to 2019, according to the United States Census BureauWater Trail advocates also hope to remedy centuries of environmental injustice that have subjected a predominantly black and Hispanic population to severe pollution, and effectively denied them access to the river and its surrounding natural environment. .

“Camden is an underserved city that hasn’t had the opportunities that other cities across the country have had,” Baugh said. “This is an opportunity to correct decades of injustice. “

In the tidal section of the Cooper River south of the Kaighn Avenue Dam, the trail will allow users to paddle or drive their boats between the dam and a Camden County Parks Department wharf near Cherry Hill. North of the dam, users will be able to travel the tidal section of the Cooper River, in the back channel of the Delaware River, and tour Petty’s Island, a former oil terminal now nesting bald eagles and is being converted. in a nature reserve.

Trail users who wish to travel between the two sections will initially need to haul their boats over the dam, but supporters eventually hope to create a channel that will allow them to float past the dam, as well as build a ladder for fish passage. .

The idea for the water trail has been in the works for five years but previously lacked funding to be implemented, he said. “This investment will allow him to go from dream to reality,” said Baugh.

The new federal money will be used to pay for the signs and hire eight people: four paddling guides, a fishing instructor, two outreach workers and a seasonal coordinator. The trail is expected to open in about two years.

The overall cost of the trail will be around $ 1.5 million, with $ 750,000 coming from Camden County, Baugh said. The county’s money includes $ 400,000 to build four new access points. The remaining matching funds come primarily from the William Penn Foundation, which has provided approximately $ 360,000.

40+ ongoing projects

The Water Trail is one of 41 projects across the watershed funded by the latest grants. With $ 13.5 million in matching funds coming from beneficiaries, the total new spending on conservation projects will amount to some $ 25 million, officials said.

Grants were awarded through two programs managed by the foundation: the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund (DWCF), funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Delaware River Restoration Fund (DRRF), funded by the William Penn Foundation .

In New Jersey, 11 other projects were funded by the conservation fund. They include $ 560,000 to the American Littoral Society for the restoration of Kimbles Beach, an important site for shorebirds and horseshoe crabs in Cape May County, and $ 362,000 to the Musconetcong Watershed Association to create a map in line that links conservation with leisure.

Four other New Jersey projects were funded by the restoration fund. They include $ 220,000 to Rutgers University to implement ecological stormwater improvements in the Upper Salem Valley watershed, and $ 275,000 to the South Jersey Land and Water Trust to install green water infrastructure. and habitat restoration in the Alloway and Muddy Run watersheds.

In other basin states, new funds include $ 179,500 for the removal of a dam on a creek in Delaware, $ 255,000 to improve the water quality of the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania by implementing best farm management practices and $ 75,000 to improve trout habitat on a New York State river.

The DWCF, which funded the Camden Water Trail, is designed to meet the conservation goals of the federal Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2016, which directs the US Fish & Wildlife Service to coordinate the conservation activities of local groups in The Pelvis.

Overall, the projects will improve land management on approximately 12,000 acres; using agricultural conservation to treat polluted runoff on more than 900 acres; plant 585 acres of wetlands and establish public access to some 1,500 acres, officials said.

“The projects and partnerships supported by these grants will conserve and maintain these lands and waters, and the people and wildlife that depend on them, for generations to come,” said Wendi Weber, Director of the North Atlantic-Appalachian Division. for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The William Penn Foundation is a major funder of NJ Spotlight News.


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