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October 23, 2003

Contact: Jack Kaskey
(609) 984-1795


DEP Joins Local Partners in Celebration of Camden Waterfront Park Expansion

(03/155) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Coalition for Conservation today joined local officials in celebrating the opening of an extension of the public promenade at Wiggins Waterfront Park in Camden, a project that has been instrumental in stimulating the revitalization of the city's waterfront.

"This project has transformed vacant, formerly industrial land into a world class waterfront park that provides the community with access to the Delaware River and links together many of Camden's most popular attractions," said John S. Watson, administrator of the DEP's Green Acres program. "The transformation of this site occurred over many years and with many partners to whom we are grateful."

The project dates back to 1975, when DEP's Green Acres program assisted the city in acquiring the lands now known as Dr. Ulysses S. Wiggins Waterfront Park. Once acquired, it was transferred to Camden County to oversee its transformation. Facilities now include a boat basin and marina, ornamental pedestrian promenade, shore protection, lighting, landscaping and a natural grass amphitheater.

When the final piece of the promenade is completed next year, the walkway will extend from Campbell's Field to the Battleship New Jersey, linking together those destinations with the New Jersey State Aquarium, the Camden Children's Garden and the Tweeter Center.

To date, Green Acres has authorized more than $10 million for the waterfront project, which leveraged an additional $3.8 million in federal Land and Water Conservation funding.

Once the initial park work was completed, Camden, Camden County, and the Coopers Ferry Development Association embarked upon an aggressive campaign to bring attractions, commercial opportunities, and employment to the area. Thus far they have been able to attract the Tweeter Center, the State Aquarium, the Battleship New Jersey, a new office building, a ferry service to and from Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, Campbell's Field, new housing in the restored Victor/Nipper Building, and light rail train service scheduled to begin by the end of the year.

Other partners in the transformation of the waterfront include the Delaware River Port Authority, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the State Treasurer's Office.

Voters will have an opportunity to approve an additional $150 million for open space purchases and community park improvements on Election Day, Nov. 4. Public Question No. 1, a constitutional amendment, proposes to increase the bonding capacity of the Garden State Preservation Trust to $1.15 billion, an increase of $150 million from the $1 billion voters approved in 1998.

The increased capacity would place no additional tax burden on New Jersey taxpayers. The sales tax dedicated in 1998 to pay off Garden State Preservation Trust bonds would cover these additional bonds by taking advantage of today's lower interest rates.

"Public Question No. 1 is an incredible opportunity to provide another $150 million for community parks, open space, farmland and clean water without raising taxes or costing taxpayers any additional money," said Michael Catania, chairman of the Coalition for Conservation. "The Coalition urges all New Jersey voters to take advantage of this opportunity and vote 'yes' on Public Question No. 1 on Nov. 4."

The newly formed Coalition for Conservation includes a broad base of statewide and local groups representing land conservation, parks and recreation, and farmland preservation interests.

At least $50 million would be used to create and improve parks in cities and suburbs over the next three years as part of Governor McGreevey's reforms to the Green Acres program. A minimum of $50 million also would be spent on open space purchases and farmland preservation in the Highlands, a critical environmental resource that is the source of drinking water for more than a third of New Jersey's residents.

In 1998, voters approved a constitutional dedication of $98 million annually from sales and use tax revenue over the next 30 years to provide a stable source of funding for open space purchases, farmland preservation and historic preservation. Currently, the state may borrow up to $1 billion over the first 10 years, using the $98 million annually to pay off the debt. With today's low interest rates, $98 million annually is sufficient to cover payments on $1.15 billion in debt, allowing the state to expand its open space and farmland preservation efforts.

Brownfields redevelopment has played an important role in the revitalization of Camden's waterfront, and voters will have an opportunity on Election Day to approve a long-term funding source for similar efforts statewide. Public Question No. 2, a constitutional amendment, would allow Corporate Business Tax revenues dedicated to the state's underground storage tank program to also be used for grants and loans to businesses and municipalities for cleaning up contaminated sites. If approved, up to $50 million would be available for brownfields cleanups in the first year, without any additional cost to taxpayers.

Since Governor McGreevey took office last year, the state Green Acres program has acquired 43,492 acres of open space, and the State Agriculture Development Committee has preserved 310 farms covering 25,516 acres.


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