Over 3,000 local residents and visitors came out to bike, dance, eat and celebrate at the Camden Night Garden on the Delaware River waterfront in Camden (NJ) last night. The event, which was sponsored by Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and Nuit Blanche New York, with funding from the William Penn Foundation, highlighted the power of transforming abandoned or underutilized spaces into places where people can walk, bicycle and spend time outdoors.
The site of the event, which was previously home to the New Jersey Riverfront State Prison, has sat vacant since the prison was demolished in 2010. The 15-acre plot of land is directly adjacent to the Ben Franklin Bridge in North Camden and includes a section of trail that will eventually become part of the Circuit regional trail network, connecting the North Camden waterfront to downtown Camden, Philadelphia and beyond.
Public spaces that are designed to reflect the needs and desires of local residents don’t just provide recreational opportunities; they can also help to revitalize neighborhoods and improve public safety. While long-term plans for the site have yet to be decided, the Camden Night Garden allowed local residents to envision a future North Camden where waterfront trails connect residents to new public spaces, including Pyne Poynt Park, which is currently being rehabilitated. With the City’s commitment to complete streets and plans for new bike lanes throughout the area, residents will soon find improved access to the Delaware River Waterfront, which has been largely inaccessible to the public for more than half a century.