In Camden, New Jersey, the former Harrison Avenue Landfill was an 86-acre municipal landfill blighting the low-income Cramer Hill neighborhood.
This poster child of environmental injustice sat on a prime piece of waterfront property at the intersection of Harrison Avenue and East State Street where the Cooper River flows into the Delaware River.
The landfill operated from approximately 1952 to 1971 and was never capped or officially closed. This left the site subject to unauthorized dumping in subsequent years.
In 2006, the Salvation Army applied $59 million it received from the estate of Ray and Joan Kroc to construct the Salvation Army Kroc Center on the northeastern 24 acres of the landfill. The Kroc Center opened in 2014 and serves over 8,000 residents.
The NJDEP provided $22 million from the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund (HDSRF) and another $4 million in public funds during 2006-2014 to remediate the landfill.
The Department’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration has allocated an additional $48 million in natural resource damage settlement monies from polluters to transform the remaining 62 acres of the landfill into the Cramer Hill Waterfront Park.
The four main components of the 62-acre project focused on shoreline protection, landfill closure, natural resource restoration, and park construction.
Shoreline protection involved regrading and stabilizing over 3000 feet of shoreline on the Delaware River where municipal solid waste and soil contamination, including pesticides and PCBs, were exposed on the surface of the unstable, steep slopes and interacting with the tides.
The landfill closure involved excavating and redistributing about 375,000 cubic yards of solid waste and soil onto the center of the landfill, installing a passive gas venting system, and constructing a 2-foot-thick semi-permeable cap of clean fill material along with the establishment of vegetation.
Ecological restoration involved enhancing and expanding the existing freshwater wetlands by constructing approximately 7 acres of tidal freshwater wetlands on both the Cooper and Delaware Rivers.
The new tidal freshwater wetland complex on the Cooper River connects the 2-acre fishing pond through a 1000-foot-long meandering channel where the public now has access to put in their kayaks and canoes using the new kayak launch.
Three areas of living shorelines were created along the back channel of the Delaware River for a total length of 450 feet.
These living shorelines enhance the transition between the existing tidal mudflats and vegetation planted within the riparian zone in the park.
Outside of the three areas along the rivers where existing mature trees were preserved for bald eagle foraging habitat, over 375,000 plants, shrubs and trees were installed throughout the park to reestablish the waterfront and inland habitat which double as another protective layer to the landfill cap.
Other features one may enjoy within the park include a grassed amphitheatre, an entry plaza, exercise stations, a fishing plaza extending into the pond, 3 miles of hiking/biking paths and trails, historic and educational signage, a picnic area, a playground, the sensory garden, multiple shoreline observation areas, and a summit vista with panoramic views of downtown Camden, the Camden Waterfront, the Delaware River, Petty’s Island, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and the Philadelphia skyline.
The transformation of this park is not only restoring and enhancing lost ecosystems, but it will also restore the communities’ direct access to the waterfront, which has been non-existent for almost seven decades.
Kids of all ages might find themselves taking part in educational programs or learning to fish and kayak right in their own backyard. These activities may even spark an interest in pursuing future careers in environmental and educational fields.
Additionally, this newly preserved greenspace has the chance to tie into other established greenways along the river allowing for greater future connectivity and recreational opportunities.
A ribbon cutting ceremony with Governor Murphy was held on November 30th, 2021, officially opening Cramer Hill Waterfront Park for all to enjoy.
Photo courtesy of NJDEP.