Streaming Nature Watershed fellows create video series to promote by bernard brown Camden nature preserve
ith birds singing in the background, three fellows at the Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) walk through Camden’s Cramer Hill Nature Preserve. They point out a frog in a puddle, examine bones and feathers of a wild turkey, and point out invasive plants, among other conservation challenges. They wrap up with a request for visitors to do their part to keep the preserve clean by picking up trash they see on their own hikes. But it’s not your typical nature walk— Adriana Amador-Chacon, Ivana Quinones and Priscilla Rios are the hosts of this virtual tour, posted on YouTube.
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According to Amador-Chacon, Quinones and Rios, few Camden residents would have considered exploring nature at the preserve, which for 40 years was the site of a sewage treatment plant. Once the plant closed in 1990, the site served mainly as an illegal dumping site. In 2019, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation celebrated two years of cleanup efforts by opening the space as a nature preserve. The three AWE fellows—all Camden natives who live a few blocks from the preserve—spent the summer introducing their neighbors to local green spaces such as the preserve vi a virtual tours, wildlife profiles and scavenger hunts.
They worked “to pursue it in a way that gives Camden a better outlook than we’ve had lately in the news,” says Amador-Chacon, “...[E]veryone sees it as impoverished and not somewhere you’d like to go on the weekends.” The Alliance for Watershed Education for the Delaware River Fellowship program, which kicked off in 2017, funds summer environmental education positions for young adults at the 23 environmental centers in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey that comprise the AWE, according to Robin Irizarry, the AWE fellowship coordinator. “When you look at a room full of environmental organizations,” says Irizarry, “that room doesn’t reflect the diversity of our region, the population that relies on the Delaware River for drinking water, that uses the trails. We wanted to build a program to empower young people from the communities we were working in to become environmental leaders.” Most of the environmental centers hosted fellows in the first three years of the pro-
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