These days I sometimes feel what I can imagine the earth in this part of the world feels at this time. It’s been a long winter. I’ve been cramped inside buildings, feeling more and more anxious to be outside, getting my hands dirty, enjoying the fresh air, the breeze and the beautiful skies. Winter days are numbered. Sunday is the first day of spring, and the earth is beginning its annual gargantuan stretch, which pushes softened soil aside and pushes its green tentacles high toward the sky. The yellow and white daffodils splash against the brown surface, announcing that it is time to celebrate, to dance in the breeze, to welcome the warmth of the sun against our faces, and to dance in the face of the cold and dark days of winter. It is a time of resurrection! As much as this is true of the gardens around my house, it is also true of the gardens in Camden, NJ, particularly in Liney Ditch Park. A resurrection is under way!!! You are invited to be part of it, so keep reading!
Liney Ditch is a wonderful park in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden, NJ. It is a place where children play on the swings, play basketball, play soccer and, one hot summer days, dance under the fountain! Near that fountain is a garden, shaped like a hockey rink!, that has been home for the last 25 years to a garden. In 2007 Sacred Heart Church, then in 2009, CFET took over management of this garden. We have been growing fruit and vegetables in that space very since. Back in the early 1990s raised beds were put in, made from pressure-treated wood. Over time, these beds sunk into the garden space, many not even visible. This past summer we did some soil-testing and found that there were traces of arsenic along the edges of the garden beds!!! That is not good! Turn out the wood of the raised beds was treated with an arsenic based compound, as was common in the early 1990s. Pressure-treated wood no longer has this toxic chemical in it. We have a problem!
We were advised to pull up the wood, which we did with the help of many friends. We were also advised to remove the top two feet of the soil and replace it if we wanted to grow vegetables there. We considered that. Not only is that quite expensive, but where we would send this contaminated soil? Remember, when you throw something away, your “away” is someone else’s “here.” The community of Waterfront South has long been Camden County’s “away” for the contents of its toilets and trash cans. We did not want to treat another community the way our community has been treated. So we decided to remediate the land using organic methods.
This, as you might imagine, will take quite a bit of time, and we need to have a space to grow our vegetables for our youth programming, so we’ve decided to build raised beds, with a barrier at their bottom to stop any contaminated soil from migrating into the bed. We’ll fill them with fresh composted soil. We are building 66 beds. Imagine that! We are also transforming one end of the garden into an amphitheatre for community events and educational programming. We ask you to join us in this work of resurrection! It’s time to stretch your arms and legs, to stretch your generous hearts, to join in the effort of transforming this space so that it becomes the “heart” of Liney Ditch Park.
We have a gofundme site, that you can visit here. See below for a photo of what can be with your assistance.
Blessings on all of you in this spring time, this holy time, this new life time!
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
President Emeritus, CFET Board of Trustees