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From the Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Nov. 23, 2009

Camden residents support open space efforts

By Mischa Aaron Arnosky
Staff writer


New Jersey may have itself a new governor-elect, but what didn’t change was the voters’ support of preserving open space.

New Jersey voters passed a referendum Nov. 3 which authorizes the state to issue $400 million in bonds to provide money for the preservation of open space, farmland and historic sites.

According to the New Jersey Divisions of Elections Web site, as of Nov. 4 at 12:25 p.m., the referendum passed by about 51 percent. And according to the Garden State Preservation Trust Election Results Report, it’s the 13th consecutive time an environmental referendum has passed dating back to 1961.

“[The $400 million bond] is one of the main lifelines of all of the work that gets done, whether it’s farmland, historic or open space preservation,” Chris Jage, New Jersey Conservation Foundation assistant director for South Jersey, said Nov. 4. “While it’s not everything, that money does fund the state’s work, and more significantly to Camden County, it provides grants to municipalities and nonprofits for a portion of the projects.”

The state typically funds up to 50 percent of the value of a project.

Camden is pretty heavily developed and tight when it comes to open space, according to Jage, and the county is still working on a “greenway” plan established in 1920. Through individual acquisitions and partnership with development firms, the greenway looks to give Camden a “green connected spine,” along the waterfronts of the Cooper and Delaware rivers, and the Newton Creek. Jage said it’s one of Camden’s greatest assets, adding that unfortunately it’s been neglected.

Prior to the vote, the Camden County Open Space Advisory Committee and the Environmental Commission of Camden County held an open space forum Oct. 27 at the Camden County Boathouse. Jage said his organization helped set up the forum, which discussed open space issues, including planning and acquisition efforts in the county. Jage said about 30 people made it out, which was consistent with last year’s forum, held at Camden County College in Blackwood.

Some of the projects include the extension of the Camden Greenway throughout the county and across the state — a project called “River to Bay,” and the forum touched on the relatively new Camden County Open Space Plan, which was prepared in conjunction with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and is a “greenway-based” plan, which connects parks with greenways and trails. Jage said all of the projects require arduous planning and are all very expensive, as projects sometimes require purchasing parcels that have buildings on them … and then knocking them down.

Still, people seem eager to help with the preservation of open space, and that was made apparent by the passing of the referendum. Jage added that he was particularly pleased that the ballot question carried despite the bad economic and political climate.

Camden County, which passed this year’s referendum by about 58 percent, has never shot down the question in the past 12 tries, including a 2007 referendum seeking a $200 million bond for open space, which passed by 64 percent.

“In general, the strongest support is coming from our more developed, more urbanized areas,” Jage said. “And we read that as: ‘Cities need parks.’ Either they appreciate the parks they have, or want more parks.


 

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