By Cleve Bryan

CAMDEN, NJ – When Carmen Rodriguez was a little girl in Camden’s Cramer hill neighborhood she used to try to find paths down to the nearby Delaware River. She’d discover quiet spots and feel like she had a secret piece of paradise.

“I grew up in this area and I can tell you honestly that most people in this area don’t even realize that they have this beautiful waterfront just feet from where they live,” says Rodriguez, now a Camden County Freeholder.

Since 1990 when the county tore down a sewage treatment plant, the 35 acres of land along the Delaware River south of 36th St has been undeveloped.

“It’s a wetland area, it’s a bald eagle foraging area so it really can’t be developed, but it can be preserved,” says Andrew Kricun, the executive director and chief engineer of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority which owns the land. So now that is what the county plans to do.

They’ve secured state funding and plan to take bids this fall on creating a county park to be called the Cramer Hill Nature Preserve.

All the trash illegally dumped over the years will be cleaned up, contaminated soil removed and nature trails will be constructed help people access the river from Cramer Hill.

“The thought was why not turn lemons into lemonade and give the community access to the river front and also protect this 35 acre wetlands tract in an area like Camden which is really rare and unique,” says Kricun.

Officials say the county park will open in Spring 2017 and tie into adjacent Petty’s Island which officials say will become a nearly 300 acre state preserve after Citco Oil leaves by 2020.