Grassroots rise up for Children's Garden

New Jersey’s plan to bulldoze the Camden Children’s Garden to make way for unspecified “economic development” has struck a nerve.

More than 3,500 supporters of the garden -- a quirky, homegrown, affordable attraction on a downtown waterfront dominated by corporate behemoths  --  are rallying on Facebook and elsewhere to fight the eviction (see my Sunday column about the plan here). The edict has enraged a broad constituency that includes not only city residents, but suburbanites, gardeners and members of the WXPN community.

Camden's waterfront overseer, the Cooper's Ferry Partnership, does support the destruction (although it also wants the garden's off-site programming to continue). Various spokespeople for other entities and agencies are saying little, and Camden Mayor Dana Redd seems to have nothing to say, at least so far.

But it seems clear that demolition of the architecturally noteworthy garden, where I worked part-time for five months in 2008, would facilitate expansion of the privately owned Adventure Aquarium. Like virtually everything on the waterfront (except the garden), the aquarium was built with enormous public subsidies.

Perhaps the grassroots pushback stems from the fact that so many beloved pieces of Camden have been obliterated in the name of grandiose “redevelopment” plans, or because of the tragic, ever-growing crop of crosses memorializing Camden's homicide victims, including children.

Or maybe it's that people are simply tired of ill-advised decrees (like the Rutgers/Rowan shotgun marriage) from on high.