The Voorhees Environmental Park saw yet another step forward in the former landfill’s long and still ongoing transformation with the recent installation of “floating wetlands” at the park’s pond.
The wetlands, more akin to plants inserted in mat-like apparatuses, help clean and restore oxygen to water through the natural method of the plants converting nitrogen and phosphorus.
The floating wetlands come as a result of a grant from the Camden County Soil Conservation District — one of 15 conservation districts in the state that works with the state Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Committee to manage soil and conserve water resources.
“This project has been going on for 15 years, and it’s finally getting some movement,” Voorhees Township administrator Larry Spellman said.
The park now rests on what was formerly the Buzby landfill, which opened in the mid-1960s atop a previous sand-mining area that closed around a dozen years later in the late 1970s.
Due to previous years of litigation involving the state Department of Environmental Protection and shrinking grant monies, the project has also had trouble finding funding.
“Back in 2000, it was going to be an environmental park with buildings and there was going to be an Asian garden and there was going to be some funds coming from somewhere, but the funding couldn’t get there and exactly what it was going to be was debated,” Spellman said.
However, Spellman said the township is in the process of soliciting proposals to install solar panels on about 15 acres of the park to possibly fund the restoration of the park through the rental fees.
“It’s 35 acres out there which includes the pond, but we’re looking to basically rent 15 of those acres for solar panels and use the fund to then build this park, so we’ll see what happens,” Spellman said.
As for the latest designs for the park, Spellman said several years ago Voorhees partnered with the Voorhees Environmental and Cultural Education Foundation and the Rutgers University Department of Landscape Architecture to create a development plan for the park’s future.
“They brought students in and they all sort of took a whack at it, and with that we now have our design, so now we’re just trying to find the funds to build it,” Spellman said.
The plans for the park include a wide promenade lined with trees to run the length of the park, a solar field, connection to the pond, a great lawn offering open space for various activities, a wildflower meadow, theme gardens and more.
The plan can be viewed at cues.rutgers.edu/projects.asp.
Spellman said there is also a $20,000 grant in place to plant wildflowers in one area of the park later in the fall.