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Reimagined, Repurposed, Reloved: Camden Environmental Park

 

The closure of a wastewater lagoon along the Wateree River opened a conservation and recreation opportunity for the City of Camden. Rather than simply filling in the site, leaders chose to repurpose it into the Wateree Riverfront Environmental Park, wildlife habitat and a place for environmental education and recreation opportunities. Built on the site of Camden's 1700s-era ferry, the park has helped to restore the connection between the people of Camden and its river.

The city sought input for the park through planning meetings and engaged a landscape architecture firm. The planning process designed the park to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and to be able to handle river-flooding events.

The park grew from the original 16.5 acres to 26 acres and features a half-mile meandering waterway, which hosts fish and improves bird habitats. Around the waterway, there is a trail that is nearly a mile long, which links to the future phases of the Kershaw County Bicycle, Pedestrian and Greenways Plan. The park also has a riverfront canoe and kayak launch.

With a project cost of $1.4 million, the park is a less expensive option for the site than the estimated $3 million cost of filling the lagoon. The National Park Service's River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program provided a technical assistance grant to help decide the best use for the lagoon through public meetings. The SC Department of Natural Resources provided $100,000 for the canoe and kayak launch. A Land Water Conservation Fund grant provided $500,000 to the project, and the city budgeted the remaining balance of $800,000.

Later phases of the park's development will include boardwalks connecting to the lagoon's island and covered observation platforms as well as additional educational amenities.

Contact Tom Couch at tcouch@camdensc.org or 803.432.2421.