Children, shouting with delight, ran through spray jets and showers at a newly unveiled "sprayground" in Camden's Cramer Hill neighborhood as the temperature hovered around 90 degrees on Thursday.
While a river runs past Camden and another through it, until Thursday Cramer Hill did not have any place where children could go to play in water. That inspired the creation of the area at Von Nieda Park, which the Camden County freeholders, along with city and community representatives, officially opened.
The American Water Charitable Foundation funded the project with a $125,000 grant. The Cramer Hill Community Development Corp. and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres Program also contributed funding.
Councilman Luis Lopez said he spoke several years ago with the Cooper's Ferry Partnership about a so-called sprayground. The ferry partnership, the city, and the county, among other entities, began officially working on the project about three years ago, he added.
"Finally it's happened," Lopez said.
The closest community pool to Cramer Hill is in North Camden, a difficult location for children in Cramer Hill to access, Freeholder Bill Moen said. The city of 77,000 residents has one other public pool, in South Camden. The sprayground, whose centerpiece is a tree-shaped shower in addition to jet sprays, is an effort to fill that void.
Darlene Williams, president of the American Water Charitable Foundation, said it was for that reason that the foundation chose to fund the project, and because the foundation already serves the area as a water provider.
"The fact that it's here in our service area and available to kids just made it a perfect opportunity," she said.
Thursday's ceremony continued a trend in Camden of renovations to city parks. Camden County announced in April that it plans to spend up to $5 million to improve four city parks by adding new playing fields. Specifically, that money will go toward refurbishing Whitman Park, Reverend Evers Park in South Camden, and Alberta Woods in East Camden, and to a park planned for Fourth and Berkley Streets in Lanning Square.