Camden parks and green spaces build community | Opinion

Nine-year-old Jose Reyes of Camden plays at Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park in Camden.

 

Regardless of your socioeconomic standing, whether you live in Haddonfield, Winslow, or Camden City, your community’s resources are going to have an outsize impact on how you grow up. Ensuring that every town in Camden County has accessible green space with amenities for all ages and walks of life is critical to families. According to a national study from the University of California, San Francisco, well-kept parks and open spaces are a key indicator of the success of a child and can blunt the harsh effects of poverty.

Maintaining, renovating, and adding to our park system is an important job for the county Freeholder Board and open space commission. As a governing body, we need to ensure that passionate groups from the Delaware River to the Pine Barrens are heard in regard to the functionality of the parks, but on a foundational level we need to ensure clean and green spaces for all residents. Access to these areas is a direct quality-of-life indicator for our residents and adds direct value to living conditions.

Today, the park system encompasses over 4,000 acres of passive and active recreational options at 21 sites throughout the county. Beyond that, we have boat launches, bike trails, walking paths, and playgrounds in every corner of the county. Parks like Cooper River have been recognized statewide as Great Places in New Jersey by the American Planning Association. We have also been building, and investing in, new ways to get residents back to the banks of our waterways.

Throughout the industrial revolutions of the last 200 years, river access was incrementally cut off from society and given  to commercial uses. Now, our emphasis is to bring people back to those same natural resources. This is an ongoing initiative that has yielded great success in projects like the construction of Phoenix Park, Gateway Park, and the revitalization of Pyne Poynt Park and Cooper River Park.

The park system provides a third place for residents to meet outside of their primary places of home and work. These third places are extremely valuable to the community because they provide a haven for people, creating a sense of place for thousands of users every day.

Community happens in the parks, and they have a profound impact on our children and families. The Freeholder Board will continue to ensure these green spaces remain special places and work to invest in additions and new features, with forthcoming announcements this summer.

We know there is an intrinsic and organic value to having a safe and accessible park near your home, and we believe this is one of the things that makes our county a special place to live.

If there is something you would like to see added or addressed in our park system, please call my office at 856-225-5466 or email me at jnash@camdencounty.com.

Jeffrey Nash is a member of the Camden County Board of Freeholders.