Cramer Hill Waterfront Park—once an abandoned landfill—has transformed a swath of Camden into a 62-acre oasis, replete with fishing plaza, hiking and biking trails, kayak launch, picnic area, playground, sensory garden, and observation areas overlooking the Delaware and Cooper Rivers. The ambitious project benefited from the contributions of Armando Alfonso, who just graduated from Rutgers Law School in Camden while holding down a full-time job as an environmental engineer with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). He was the department’s Community Collaborative Initiative (CCI) liaison to the City of Camden, working on priority environmental issues and key projects in the city. In 2017, Alfonso ENG’13, RLAW’22 also contributed to the rehabilitation of Phoenix Park, in the Waterfront South neighborhood.
“Bringing people the opportunity to have access to the water was an overarching theme throughout all of our work in Camden,” says Alfonso, a native of Trenton who recently moved into a new role with the NJDEP Office of Enforcement Policy. “Environmental justice is always tied to everything we are doing.”
Alfonso worked closely with alumnus Frank McLaughlin, manager of CCI, who began working on the transformation of the area, formerly the Harrison Avenue landfill, in 2003. The new park is near the Rutgers University–Camden campus and adjacent to the Salvation Army Kroc Center, which opened in 2014 and was built on 24 acres of the transformed trash dump. “That landfill was an 86-acre, 50-foot-high mountain of garbage literally left behind in 1971,” says McLaughlin GSNB’88,’06, adding that it would catch fire and cliffs of trash would fall into the river. “It was really eye-opening to see the egregious environmental injustices in Camden.”
This story originally appeared in Rutgers Magazine.