On June 26, 2023 in Camden, New Jersey, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) received a $1.2 million grant from New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection to restore green infrastructure in the Cramer Hill neighborhood.
Here in REVITALIZATION, we’ve documented the various efforts to revitalize Cramer Hill (and Camden in general) many times over the years.
This grant allocation will be focused on boosting resilience by reducing flooding in the neighborhood by taking more than one inch of rainwater out of the stormwater system when completed.
As documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, revitalization and resilience efforts should be integrated, since both are best achieved the same way: by repurposing, renewing and reconnecting natural, built and socioeconomic assets.
Besides: what’s the point of revitalization if it doesn’t last? That’s where resilience comes in.
The initiative, in collaboration with Camden Community Partnership, will build bioretention systems, that are trenches partially filled with layers of sediment and native plant life that filter and absorb pollutants from rainwater.
These trenches also act as storm drains to efficiently drain floodwaters away from the streets.
“In order for the county to continue making progress, climate resiliency must be prioritized,” said Commissioner Jeff Nash, liaison to the CCMUA.
“Cramer Hill has repeatedly been impacted by flooding and investing in green infrastructure, such as these bioretention systems, is a way we can mitigate more damage from occurring in the future. The climate crisis is here, and we are dedicated to building resilient infrastructure that will protect our most at-risk communities from feeling the devastating impact of climate change,” he added.
The $1.2 million grant will fund the construction of a bioretention system along East State Street while $1.5 million, secured by the Camden Community Partnership earlier this year, will be used to build a bioretention system along Harrison Avenue.
“This significant $1.2 million grant represents a pivotal moment in our journey towards a more resilient and equitable Camden,” said Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen.
“Through the implementation of green infrastructure, specifically the creation of bioretention systems, we are directly addressing the long-standing issue of flooding, particularly in the vibrant neighborhood of Cramer Hill. This transformative investment will bring tangible improvements to the daily lives of our residents and have a lasting impact on the entire city of Camden,” he continued.
A team of experts from Drexel University are currently designing a model to predict waterflows while accounting for the effects of climate change, which will help shape the future of the project. The team’s flood model is expected to be complete by November and preliminary engineering plans should be ready by January 2024.
“Leading up to the start of this project, we will be holding community meetings in the Cramer Hill neighborhood to garner feedback and suggestions from residents,” Nash explained. “This is a community driven project and ensuring our residents have their voices heard is crucial. Residents will play a major role in deciding what types of bioretention systems will be used.”
These investments will make Camden County safer in a warming world with the bioretention systems protecting residents against flood damage and harmful pollutants and the planting of additional trees absorbing runoff pollution and improving air quality.
“Camden Community Partnership is proud to be a partner with Camden County and the CCMUA on this project,” added Mark McDonough, President of New Jersey American Water and Co-Chair of Camden Community Partnership.
“This NJDEP funding fosters the ongoing collaboration to address flooding and advance sustainable infrastructure improvements in the Cramer Hill neighborhood. It is also an example of how state, county, city and other partners are working together to address a top priority identified by the Cramer Hill neighborhood and improving quality of life for the residents,” he said.
These investments will also provide beautiful new public spaces. At the moment, the Cramer Hill neighborhood is almost devoid of any trees or other greenery. The bioretention systems will add trees, flowers, and other plant life to the area.
Also, the Commissioners have long been working on improving and enhancing link trails which seek to connect communities throughout the county with beautiful green bike paths and walkways.
In addition, the project will also make Camden more sustainable. Calmer traffic and new bike lanes will protect those who choose healthier and environmentally friendlier forms of transportation.
The aesthetic benefits will also provide pedestrians and cyclists a more pleasant experience. Furthermore, planners believe that tree-based systems will be easier to maintain in the long term.
The next steps for the CCMUA will be to join Camden Community Partnership to present the proposals to Cramer Hill residents and integrate their feedback into the plans.
Residents will play a major role in deciding which particular types of bioretention systems will be used.
Photo of the ecologically restored Cramer Hill Waterfront Park courtesy of NJDEP.