(Camden, NJ) – On Wednesday, local and state officials gathered to launch an expedition with the Upstream Alliance and seven kids from Camden City, ages 12 to 17, to explore, unlock the hidden beauty and find the Cooper River in Camden County.
Along with the youth, supporting organizations and a film crew will kayak, bushwack and hike through the dense overgrowth, debris and challenging terrain, ultimately traveling 16 miles up to the source of the attempt to discover the source of the Cooper River while campaigning to reclaim the area’s natural beauty.
“One of county’s main objectives for the last 10 years has been to reconnect residents with the waterways,” said Commissioner Al Dyer. “The goal of this expedition is deeper than just finding the source of a river, it’s meant to serve as a healing opportunity for communities in Camden that historically, have been denied access to waterways, recreational opportunities and overall environmental equity. We are thrilled that these local youth will be able to connect with the natural beauty this county has to offer.”
Once 40% raw sewage, the river has been brought back to health and now is a recreational asset for the community. The meandering waters are hidden among Camden’s urban landscape and its source is still a mystery that the expedition’s participants are determined to solve.
“Camden for hundreds and thousands of years was an area blessed with clean water and fertile soils, the reasons that Joseph Cooper built his house on this hill behind you in 1695. In the 1800’s and 1900’s these waterways were exposed to extensive pollution that made the rivers unfit for life,” Carstarphen said. “Fortunately, the Clean Water Act, which was enacted exactly 50 years ago changed that and today, along with the great work of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, we have a Back Channel and Cooper River that is full of life. It’s wonderful that these youth on this expedition are taking steps to help restore these waterways while on their adventure to discover the river and tell its story widely.”
Prior to starting the journey, the American Water Charitable Foundation and New Jersey American Water together provided a check for $40,000 to the Upstream Alliance in support of the Search for the Cooper River Expedition and film.
“As the state’s largest water and wastewater utility company, it is essential for us to support environmental stewardship and appreciation of our precious natural waterways to help protect them now and for future generations,” said Mark McDonough, President of New Jersey American Water. “We are proud to be able to partner with Upstream Alliance and Camden County Parks to bring this important project to fruition,”
Angel Fuentes, president of the Camden City Council, discussed his excitement over the initiative.
“It’s incredible for our kids here in Camden City to have this opportunity to really connect with their surroundings and learn about the natural beauty this region has to offer,” Fuentes said. “Every child should have easy access to the outdoors and sometimes in an urban setting that’s hard to do but through the hard work and dedication of the county and its community partners, we’re making that happen.”