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Camden community group believes bike/ped trails play a role in Cramer Hill's revival

The national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy held a trails forum at Rutgers Camden this past Friday in conjunction with Cooper's Ferry Partnership and the William Penn Foundation. The forum, a local byproduct of Rails-to-Trails' Urban Pathways Initiative (UPI), concentrated on the need for bicycle and pedestrian trails in Camden. The forum comes in the throes of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission's (DVRPC's) Regional Trails Program, which awarded money to Camden in mid-December.

While there's potential for a number of new trails in Camden, DVRPC awarded $150,000 towards the design phase of the Baldwin's Run Tributary Trail, says Chris Linn, manager in DVRPC's Office of Environmental Planning. Meishka Mitchell, the Vice President of Neighborhood Initiatives at Cooper's Ferry Partnership, hopes to "daylight" the Baldwin's Run tributary, which forms from the Delaware River and runs through the Cramer Hill neighborhood of Camden. By "daylighting," Mitchell means unearthing the tributary, which was filled with dirt in the 1960s, by creating a trail out of it.

The Baldwin's Run Tributary is now the site of Von Neida Park, which is Cramer Hill's most sizeable park. Usually a park connotes positive things for a neighborhood, but things aren't always as they seem in Cramer Hill. In fact, Cooper's Ferry complains that the park is prone to flooding, illegal activity, and a lack of upkeep. Flooding is the most dire woe, as nearby homeowners are left waterlogged after many storms. The flooding stems from the filling-in of the creek, which Mitchell's CDC hopes to rectify by removing the dirt and turning the body of water into a trail and drainage area.  
 
Mitchell is convinced of the plentiful benefits that trails can have for impoverished Cramer Hill. While it wasn't funded during the first phase of the Regional Trails Program, she is optimistic that a trail will be built along the Cooper River. She says a trail here could generate as much as $600 million for the city, expand its tax base, and help re-develop its brownfields, of which there are many. There is currently zero public access to the Cooper River in Cramer Hill. 

The vice president is happy with how the Urban Pathways forum went. "The event has helped to raise awareness on critical missing links, economic development, and neighborhood restoration," lauds Mitchell. The forum consisted of five sessions, which discussed how trails in Camden and its older brother across the Delaware River can connect, waterfront trail facilitation, how trails promote public health, teaching youth about trails, and funding trails.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Meishka Mitchell, Cooper's Ferry Partnership and Chris Linn, DVRPC
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