The City of Camden has received a Municipal Achievement Award for its environmental park.
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The City of Camden has received a Municipal Achievement Award for its environmental park. The city won in the public works category. Thirty cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives for consideration in the annual awards. 
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. 
“Camden seized on a unique opportunity created by the closure of a wastewater lagoon, and made the location into a great asset for residents and visitors,” said Todd Glover, executive director for the Municipal Association.

These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. Information and a video about the project are available on the Association’s website (keyword: Achievement Awards).