Thu Jan 31, 2013, 10:26 PM
HiPointDem (20,729 posts)
NJ wants to pave the Camden Children's Garden, put up a parking lot.
N.J. gives Camden Children's Garden two months to vacate state land
The nonprofit Camden Children's Garden has two months to vacate most of its state-owned property before the land is transferred to the Adventure Aquarium next door. In a letter sent last week, the New Jersey Department of Treasury ordered Children's Garden director Michael Devlin to remove all property - including the facility's amusement rides, gazebo, and giant dinosaur - by March 31.
The garden has the option to sell its items to Herschend Family Entertainment, the private owner of the aquarium as well as amusement parks around the country...Since it was built in 1999, the Children's Garden has not had a lease, license, or agreement to use the land, Treasury spokesman Bill Quinn said.
The state provided annual grants until 2010 to help cover operating costs...the Children's Garden was developed by the nonprofit Cooper's Ferry Development Corp. in conjunction with the then-state-owned New Jersey State Aquarium and Camden City Garden Club Inc. The club still operates the garden. Quinn could not say how it initially got access to the land.
The state has tried for at least two years to reduce the footprint of the Children's Garden and charge rent for office space, Devlin and Quinn said Thursday. Devlin refused, he said, citing the group's nonprofit status and 1999 designation as the parcel's "developer operator." The garden hosts at least 100,000 visitors a year, he said. "It's not like we can go someplace else. . . . This garden isn't on wheels," said Devlin...
The Children's Garden began as a "horticultural playground" but has expanded its mission to include on- and off-site nutrition and environmental, science, and math programs. It has a butterfly house, dinosaur garden, and carousel, and is headquarters of the club. The club has overseen development of more than 100 community gardens in the city. It was celebrated in Michelle Obama's 2012 book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, which featured photos of Camden youths tending crops.
Herschend, the aquarium owner-operator, pays Camden 50 cents per patron in lieu of taxes, an arrangement critics have said shortchanges the city. Quinn said terms of the land transfer to Herschend had not been resolved. We have no specific plans to expand at this time," aquarium spokeswoman Kim Walker said Thursday. But Quinn said Herschend had proposed "substantial investments...."
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NJ wants to pave the Camden Children's Garden, put up a parking lot. (Original post)