The North Camden Delaware River waterfront gets less attention than the Central Camden waterfront, south of the Ben Franklin Bridge and next to downtown Camden. The biggest reason for that is that much of the once entirely industrial waterfront, north of the bridge, was used for a large medium-security prison, for white collar and financial crimes, for many years. That prison was built in the 1980s, when Camden was negotiating for state financial aid and agreed to have it built, inexplicably, on a major waterfront gateway into Camden City, Camden County, and the State of New Jersey. The Camden Riverfront State Prison was demolished a few years ago, belatedly at the request of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine years earlier. When the prison was in operation, the warden observed, half jokingly, that on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for homes to be able to enjoy the view of the Ben Franklin Bridge, and on the Camden side people steal hundreds of thousands of dollars to be able to enjoy the view of the bridge. Now that the prison is gone, a partnership of government agencies and community groups have decided to build a park and trail along the waterfront just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge, called Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park.
Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park will have views of the bridge and Philadelphia skyline few on the outside have ever seen. The park has five acres of land and a half mile paved trail along the river bank. It currently ends just before the bridge. The land there is owned by a metal manufacturer, but connecting the Cooper’s Poynt trail to the riverfront trail south of the bridge would certainly be a goal in the future. The other end of the trail is at the Weeks shipping terminal and heads east to Riverside Drive. The new park has 89 new trees, new lighting, and security cameras. There is an innovative ADA-accessible playground with a section of musical instruments, like drums and xylophones, for kids to play with. Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park is made possible by a partnership of the New Jersey Economic Development Administration, the City of Camden, Camden County, the Delaware River Port Authority, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, and a neighborhood organization called Save Our Waterfront.
Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park will likely lead to increased housing demand and investment opportunities in previously overlooked North Camden. The government agencies and community groups plan to market the parking lots next to the park and seek proposals to develop those sites. The next phase of the North Camden waterfront is to extend the trail through the Cramer Hill neighborhood. That section would cost $20 million to complete and would connect to Pyne Point Park and north to Petty’s Island, which is being conserved as a nature preserve. Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park is the first step to revitalizing North Camden.
By, Gabriel Gottlieb