Sunday, December 21, 2014

Still fighting to save a park's past

Kevin Cook questions the county's differing vision

Still fighting to save a park's past

Kevin Cook saved the Wallworth Park clubhouse from demolition last spring (read my April 19 column here and subsequent blog post here).

Cook's largely one-man campaign to restore this overlooked, underappreciated Camden County Park building has since enjoyed little success, however.

"I feel like I'm getting a runaround," says Cook, 35, who lives in Cherry Hill and is disabled by a neurological disorder.

County officials say the burned, boarded-up cottage near the Croft Farm Arts Center in Cherry Hill is neither historically significant nor suitable for re-use  -- except perhaps as an open-air structure. "We could keep the foundation, keep the bricks, keep what we can save, and make it into an educatonal pavilion," Freeholder Jeff Nash says.

"Bringing it back (to its original condition) would be difficult at best," says Joseph Cairone, a principal of Cairone & Kaupp, the architecture firm overseing the improvement of public areas in the county's nearby Cooper River Park.

Cook has deeply researched the building, which dates from the late 1920s, when famed landscape designer Charles Levitt was developing plans for the Camden County Park system. Cook also was told by a N.J. Department of Environmental Protection official that the building contributes to the park's historic character; a DEP spokesman confirmed that statement.

While he says he would be agreeable to alternatives if full restoration isn't feasable, financially or otherwise, Cook is not convinced the county has seriously considered all the possibilities. But he does acknowledge: "At some point, it's out of my control."

--KEVIN RIORDAN

Kevin Riordan Inquirer Columnist
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Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

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