ENVIRONMENT

Environmental groups work toward greener, more sustainable Camden

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

The future of Camden City will not be built of brick and mortar alone. At the sixth Camden Environmental Summit at Rutgers-Camden, rebuilding from the ground up is taken quite literally. Mayor Frank Moran was a keynote speaker.

“First and foremost, Camden was an industrial city. We’ve done a lot of remediation over the last 25 years. Today there is a lot of brick and mortar going up in the city of Camden and simultaneously we’re adjusting the infrastructure to control the flooding, to educate folks of the importance of green and recycling. Anything that has to do with improving the environment. That’s our goal,” Moran said.

The irony of this waterfront city is that the water can often end up everywhere, the result of an antiquated combined sewer system that the Camden Collaborative Initiative, which presented today’s program, hopes to eliminate by 2020.

“Because we have a combined sewer system, an old sewer system, we do have a lot of instances of flooding of wastewater into our parks, into people’s homes, into roadways, which really is a quality of life issue for the residents of the city,” said Sarah Bryant, director of community initiatives for the Coopers Ferry Partnership.

It’s a collaborative effort. It takes a village to make a great city great again, and nowhere is that more visible than with the work of the Camden PowerCorps, the members of which were honored Wednesday.

“We maintain rain gardens around the city, we clean the inlets so that the storm water doesn’t mix with the rain water on the streets and overflood, because Camden has a lot of flooding problems,” said PowerCorps member Ryan Johnson.

“I think it’s very important for young adults of Camden to take it back because we’re here right now. We’re the future, so if the younger kids see us taking heed and getting the environment together now, then maybe along the line they’ll come on and do the same thing,” he added.

Longtime Camden environmental activist Olivia Glenn was also recognized for her work in the city. She now runs the division of Parks and Forestry at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“When you take an investment in improving your environment, it certainly builds the gateway to be engaged civically and other matters, so I think it is wonderful to have them involved and I look forward to seeing a lot from them in the future,” said Glenn.

In the end, a cleaner, greener environment is critical to a city’s economic viability. Former Gov. Jim Florio was the congressman who authored the Superfund Legislation.

“This event is extremely important. It’s most interesting because it seems to put the lie to the whole idea that somehow the environment and economic development can’t be compatible. That’s obviously not the truth. Camden, which is going through a massive redevelopment project that is doing very much to enhance the well being of the people here, is also demonstrating environmental sensitivity,” said Florio.

There’s still a lot in Camden that needs cleaning up. Not all of it has to do with the natural environment, but the foundation is set here, where Camden residents are taking matters into their own hands and doing what they can, hoping to set an example for the rest of the city to follow.