New Jersey Tree Foundation Reports on Northgate Park
Featured Story: Adam Paul and Northgate Park
by JFRANZINI on JANUARY 23, 2013
Northgate Park is nestled in the North Camden neighborhood, directly across from Molina Elementary School and surrounded on all sides by residential blocks. Over the years, this city park has experienced its ups and downs. In 2010, Jessica of NJTF can remember walking through the park mid-day and feeling nervous. “On that particular day, the only people in the park were getting high. There were no children there.”
But Northgate Park is a glowing example of what can happen when a community takes ownership of a public space. Walking through Northgate Park two weeks ago, Jessica was in awe at the recent improvements of the park. From brightly painted park benches to new playground equipment, the space was truly transformed! Adam Paul, who grew up in Camden and graduated from Rutgers University in 2009, was one of many volunteers that helped rebuild the park in October of 2012. He was kind enough to share a story with us:
“Northgate park was my childhood park. It was fresh, colorful and a safe haven for the neighborhood. Friendships were created, summer days were cooled with the water fountain. It was a place filled with joy. A local place that my family could walk to in less than 10 minutes. Epic battles of hide-and-go-seek were played there, sometimes lasting more than one day! Every day at Northgate was a daily competition ranging from foot races around the park to pretending to be a gymnast on the monkey bars.
With time, things changed in Camden and you could see it in the park. Children still played there, but the park lacked the necessary upkeep and lost all resemblance of its former self. Paint was faded, and the child-friendly environment I remember vanished. It became a playground for illegal activity. This discouraged children from playing in the park and, if anything, encouraged them to get involved in wrong-doing. Our city was changing for the worst and the children were being effected the most.
In 2012, on a bright sunny day, hundreds of volunteers brought Northgate Park back to life. Leaves were raked, tables received fresh coats of paint, flower beds were built, brand new slides and swings were assembled. All of this done for the children. The day wasn’t bright just from the sun but from all the children smiling ear to ear. Now they have a place to create memories, have friendly competitions and play pistachio checkers (see photo below).”
Park improvements on October 20th, 2012 were led by Bryan Morton of the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties and Sarah Bryant of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, in collaboration with the City of Camden, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NJ, the United Way, KaBoom, Save Our Waterfront, and Friends of Northgate Park. Stay tuned for a story on Bryan Morton!