Councilwoman Crystal Evans has sought and received a $3,000 grant from the state Forestry Commission to develop a Community Forestry Management Plan (CFMP) for the township.
The "Green Communities" grant makes the township eligible for future grants to plant trees and to conduct storm-damage assessments and hazardous-tree removals.
The daughter of an environmentalist, Evans sees this grant reward as an exciting and necessary development—one which she has been working on since May.
“At the time, I was on the environmental committee,” she said this week. “John Schmidt from the New Jersey Community Forestry program contacted me about this. I talked to the mayor, and we decided to pursue this.”
Evans saw a similar initiative take hold in Vineland six months ago and has rave reviews for its results in the Cumberland County city.
“I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! It no longer looked like a rundown city. It looked like a real upscale area,” she said. “I really think this is going to take us to a whole other level, especially in downtown Blackwood.”
Blackwood Clementon Road is just one of the areas she plans on revamping.
“We need to focus on blighted areas, like Blackwood Clementon Road—that’s where Gloucester Township begins. That area definitely needs to be revamped,” she said.
Evans believes the grant and the opportunities it presents will not only help local stores and restaurants, but will also help attract new businesses to the area.
“I envision cobblestone walks, gaslights, something like Haddonfield,” Evans said, expounded on her plans for the grant. “It would be great to get some Internet cafes and better ambiance.”
The Shoppes at Cross Keys is another complex she wants to target.
“Those stores are very high-end. The center needs to be beautified. It needs a little something extra, like what Marlton has,” she said.
According to Evans, this is just the first step in a longer process, but the future looks promising for this project.
There is also a distinct possibility Evans will soon be serving on a statewide committee—something she says will enable her to work more effectively on these types of projects locally and to begin administering grants to other towns.