The ongoing transformation of Camden, New Jersey, is a terrific case study of what Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is about. From our core mission of recycling disused rail corridors into public pathways, in recent years RTC has expanded that work to building broader, more connected urban trail networks and encouraging new generations of Americans to walk and bike for daily transportation.
In Camden, there is an urgent need for this kind of transformation. Disconnected from the vibrant economic and social activity occurring just across the Delaware River in Philadelphia, for the last few decades Camden has suffered a lack of shops and businesses and insufficient investment in its public spaces. As a result, incomes and property levels are low, obesity and poor nutrition are problems, especially among young people. These experiences are common to underserved, at-risk populations across the country.
Enter RTC. Since 2006 our Northeast Regional Office has been working with local partners in Camden to create an improved bicycle and pedestrian network throughout Camden and beyond, and attracting the funding and support necessary for its construction. In a community where 40 percent of residents don’t own a car, RTC knew that cheaper, easier options for getting from A to B had the potential to make real and significant improvements to the lives of Camden’s citizens, every day.