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Camden’s Waterfront Renewal
This article by Phyllis B. Maguire was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper
on July 8, 1998. All rights reserved.
Trenton is discovering the goldmine of waterfront
development, taking cues from two of its southern neighbors. For much
of the past decade, Camden and Philadelphia have worked in tandem
to turn their burgeoning waterfront districts — joined by the
RiverLink Ferry and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge — into a major
destination and entertainment center. And while the city of Camden
continues to be financially troubled, spurring Governor Whitman’s
recent proposal to turn the city’s financial management over to the
state, ambitious plans for a glittering riverfront have been drawn.
The New Jersey State Aquarium — a graceful, V-shaped domed
its rooftop pennants flying above a riverside promenade with a
view of Philadelphia’s cityscape — is its seed presence and crown
"The success of the Camden waterfront will reach out into the
city," says Aquarium president Michael Crowther. "We’re
a ladder of resources that will integrate the city and the river
While Crowther concedes that hasn’t yet happened — the Aquarium
is the only daily institution in place, with the Blockbuster-Sony
Music E-Centre open only 40 nights a year — he is sure Camden’s
urban integration will be a success: "We need to build the
critical mass — and we’re doing it."
Camden’s Aquarium and E-Centre complement Philadelphia’s Penn’s
Independence Seaport Museum, the Philadelphia Marine Center, and a
growing nightclub and restaurant district. The combined waterfronts
now attract 3 million visitors a year. Within the next decade, they
are projected to draw an estimated 10 to 15 million annual visitors,
with plans for a tram to link the two sides of the river, and proposed
Camden waterfront construction of a minor league baseball franchise
and stadium, along with hotels, museums, and marinas. A six-acre
Garden next to the Aquarium is scheduled to open in spring, 1999.
"We are adding to our menu of choices," says Kimberley
the public relations manager. "The Children’s Garden will expand
our mission to support conservation efforts for plants and animals,
as well as for fish. It is all intertwined in one big cycle, and the
Camden waterfront, as far as the educational opportunities it will
offer, will reflect that."
Construction of the New Jersey State Aquarium began
in 1988. It is not a state institution, although the legislature
$52 million for its construction; instead, it is operated by the New
Jersey Academy of Aquatic Sciences, a private, non-profit organization
that relies on earned income and private donations. The first fish
to be released into the 760,000-gallon Open Ocean Tank, one of the
largest in the country, were 30 cownose rays in December, 1991. The
first sharks took up residence in the same tank in February, 1992,
the same month as the Aquarium’s grand opening, and several new
have debuted since then, part of an ongoing expansion program to
repeat visits. The Aquarium’s fish population now numbers 4,000, but
its newest tenants are a delightful colony of aquatic birds.
Fifteen African penguins, purchased from Colorado’s Pueblo Zoo,
Mystic Aquarium, and the Baltimore Zoo, are moving into a 6,000 square
foot exhibit called Inguza (an African word for "penguin")
Island, complete with a 17,000-gallon, 8-foot pool (see sidebar).
The birds are settling into their very public outdoor home after weeks
in high-flying, luxurious quarantine in the Bird Holding Area
Though Inguza Island, billed as New Jersey’s biggest birdbath, was
opened on the July Fourth weekend, its official opening bash —
Penguin Palooza — will be held Saturday, July 11, with arts and
crafts activities and trainers on hand to answer all your penguin
And many queries will be engendered by this extremely engaging crew.
Indigenous to the temperate southern tip of Africa, the African
is also known as the blackfooted penguin and as the jackass penguin
for its characteristic braying. They have feathers, lay eggs, and
are warm-blooded though, like ostriches, they cannot fly — but
these birds sure can swim, clocking underwater speeds of up to 25
miles per hour. All penguins live in the southern hemisphere. Of 18
species, only two reside in Antarctica, while most live in tropical
or temperate parts of South America, New Zealand, and Australia.
two feet tall and weighing six pounds, African penguins can live 25
years in captivity and they mate for life, sharing childcare duties
of protecting their nest and feeding their young. With a very high
metabolism, they consume a quarter of their own body weight in food
every day — the equivalent of a 150-pound person polishing off
37 pounds of daily edibles. While their diet in the wild consists
of sardines and other small schooling fish, their menu at the Aquarium
features squid, trout, capelin, and herring.
African penguins are extremely sociable and curious, with a variety
of communicating behaviors. They build nests and engage in what is
called "ecstatic display," the flapping of wings or flippers
by males to attract mates (similar behavior may be observed among
humans in the nightclubs on the other side of the Delaware!). They
stare and bray at the human crowd lined up along the waist-high glass
wall, in an exhibit designed to bring people close to its gregarious
residents. "The railing is just a few feet away, and the penguins
seem ready to jump in your lap," says Robert Fournier, the
director of husbandry. "Other facilities set the birds much
back or build higher walls. It’s part of a new ‘enrichment’ approach
taken by zoos and aquariums so that animals are not just being stared
at. Not only are exhibits designed to enhance the animals’ quality
of life, but people can get a much closer look at their habitat and
And African penguins are threatened. Their numbers in the wild have
decreased 90 percent over the last 60 years, reducing the current
population to about 140,000. Particularly devastating have been
overfishing of their food supply, habitat destruction, and oil spills,
with the birds’ natural habitat a heavily-travelled shipping channel.
While penguins — like other aquatic birds — waterproof their
feathers with their own oil, that protection is rendered useless by
spilled crude, and penguins exposed to oil spills die of hypothermia.
Their natural predators include seals, sharks, and killer whales.
The ongoing decimation has made the African penguin one of 134 species
in the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Species Survival
started in 1981 to cooperatively manage and promote the breeding of
captive populations. Ten different institutions participate throughout
North America, with the SSP matching pairs of genetically desireable
animals for breeding purposes. "One of the main goals of SSP is
to increase the birds’ numbers for other facilities," says
who points out that breeding season begins in September and that
pairs of penguins are showing an interest in each other. "It is
now illegal to take them out of the wild, so we want to make sure
the birds we breed for other institutions and for release into the
wild have the best possible genes."
Aquarium trainers now work with the colony several hours a day,
for the kind of presentation spectators already enjoy at the penguins’
next-door neighbors: the eight harbor and grey seals on Seal Shores
which, along with Inguza Island, flank the Aquarium entrance. Both
the seals and the penguins have above- and below-ground viewing areas,
acrylic visions of fiendishly tempting pools on a hot day. Together
they comprise a playful introduction to what is found inside.
Interactivity is a part of each Aquarium exhibit, drawing in children
and adults alike. The entry rotunda is adorned by a massive seven-foot
high open jaw of a megalodon shark, extinct for 10,000 years, a
50-foot long nasty specimen whose teeth were found in several rivers
in South Carolina. It leads to the Shark Zone, where other shark jaws
— including that of carcharodon carchareas, or the great white
— are mounted in display cases around the Touch-a-Shark tank,
its rim crowded by children. Within this 2,500-gallon tank swim
full-grown, 3-foot long dogfish and epaulette sharks, as well as
whose barbs have been clipped. Visitors are invited to run their
along the rippling, velvet-like backs of the fish as they swim past.
A wooden mock-up of a great white comes complete with windows to open
and buttons to push, providing a fascinating lesson in shark anatomy:
a nictitating membrane, or third eyelid, keeps the shark’s eye closed
and protected while it’s attacking, and its electroreception system
can detect the electricity given off by other organisms. It can hear
prey a half-mile away, smell it a mile away, and swim 43 miles per
hour. Facts mounted on an exhibit wall mention that the shark’s
immune system may hold the key to future human medical breakthroughs
and offer this sobering statistic: while sharks kill 10 people a year
among 50 to 70 reported attacks, humans annually kill 100 million
"`Jaws’ was the worst thing that every happened to the shark
Fournier explains. "It became popular to kill them. They’re now
killed for sport and for sharkfin soup that uses two percent of the
shark’s body for food."
There is a panel of New Jersey Treasures, several local aquatic
including one from the Pine Barrens, its streams stained brown by
cedar tree tannins and the iron in the soil. The Caribbean Outpost
is stocked with vividly colored fish from many different tropical
habitats and types of reefs. There are fish that make their home among
a simulated shipwreck to sargassum fish moving among fronds, ghostly
ethereal moon jellyfish and vibrant indigo hamlets, menacing-looking
moray eels lurking in small, constructed caves, and a dozen seahorses
cavorting behind a bubble dome.
The Caribbean Outpost wraps around the main exhibit, Ocean Base
with its Open Ocean Tank, a magnificent display of 1,400 fish. All
are found off the New Jersey coast, including two dozen sand tiger
and brown sharks (they are fed on Tuesdays and Thursdays), loggerhead
turtles, roughhead stingrays, striped bass, and schools of iridescent
herring which break up when the sharks approach, particularly one
imposing 400-pound sand tiger specimen. There are several different
views of the Tank, including a 24-foot high one in the Deep Atlantic
amphitheatre where "Tank Talk!" programs are held twice a
day. For those craving a more immediate Deep Atlantic adventure —
and who have diving certification — the Tank is open for divers
the first and third Saturdays.
Upstairs in the auditorium is the "Wingin’ It!" bird show
through Labor Day, and it is worth a visit. Turkey vultures, redtailed
hawks, augur buzzards, and snowy owls swoop over the audience, flying
between strategically placed posts during an informative and very
entertaining presentation. The "WOW, Weird? Or Wonderful?"
exhibit is an oddball showcase for some of the world’s most unusual
aquatic creatures. There are the four-eyed fish, with eyes above and
below the water; the archerfish that shoots its prey with rapid-fire
bullets of seawater; the horned cowfish, with an armor body suit;
the poison dart frog, whose toxins tip poison darts, and the veiled
and panther chameleons, camouflage artists that not only change colors
but are shaped like leaves to further thwart enemies — 30
species, with more than 400 creatures in 20 different tanks.
There is a Cyberfin virtual dive among dolphins and a Jewels of the
Rainforest exhibit that includes a deadly goliath birdeater spider.
A Water Colors exhibit demonstrates how color affects creatures’
and communication, as well as a Water Babies aquatic nursery display.
Each exhibit features touchscreens and games, while for the very
there is the Kids’ Reef of children’s activities and S.E.A. TV with
the "Eel Sullivan Puppet Show!"
The Aquarium has a thriving facility rentals program for corporate
and family events, and beginning July 21, the 72-foot schooner, the
Jolly II Rover, owned by the non-profit Philadelphia City Sail, will
be docked outside the Aquarium for two-hour participatory tours. While
the schooner moves out onto the Delaware, visitors will rotate among
various stations, learning about the river ecosystem and how to
the ship. It will bring even larger and newer audiences to the New
Jersey side of the river, as the Aquarium continues to aggressively
market itself within the tri-state area.
"We bill the Aquarium as a great family day out," says public
relations manager O’Neill, "and we specifically market to kids
because of the `nag factor’ — children nagging their parents to
come." That factor will definitely intensify with the Aquarium’s
new Inguza Island commercial, a music video for a song entitled `Can
You Walk Like A Penguin?’ being aired on Fox and Nickelodeon. The
penguins lend themselves beautifully to MTV treatment, as the Aquarium
commits itself to navigating the next phase of waterfront development.
— Phyllis B. Maguire
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through September 15. For
call or visit www.njaquarium.org. Tickets for adults and young
people age 12 and over cost $10.95; and $7.95 for children 3 to 11.
The Wingin’ It! Bird Show is $2 additional; the Cyperfin Virtual
Dive runs continuously, $5.
Call 215-925-LINK for prices and times of the ferry from Penn’s
A RiverPass can be purchased at the Aquarium and at the Seaport Museum
that includes admission to both and a RiverLink ride. For those
in Open Ocean Tank diving, the cost is $100. Call 609-365-3000,
302, for more information.
Inguza" may be Xhosan for "penguin," but
for Mark Skevington, vice president of construction management for
Joseph Jingoli and Sons, it might as well be an African expression
for "a really big challenge." That’s what Inguza Island at
the New Jersey State Aquarium proved to be for the Lawrenceville
who constructed it.
"Ten weeks ago, Inguza Island was a plot of grass at a different
elevation covered with pines," says Skevington. "Now there’s
a building housing 15 penguins and a 17,000-gallon, 8-foot deep pool,
with pumps, filters, and acrylic panels — all done in 10 weeks.
That was the challenge on this job."
A novel one, to say the least. The 80-year-old, fourth-generation
firm on Princeton Pike employs over 100 people, with contracting work
throughout Pennsylvania and New York as well as New Jersey. "We’ve
done all types of construction, from schools to office buildings to
treatment plants," Skevington says. "But this was our first
exhibit. It was the same as any other project as far as building
vendors, and deadlines were concerned, but other projects get utilized
by people, not birds. This needed to be not only functional, but very
pleasing esthetically. Thousands of people are going to walk past
it every day, so real attention had to be paid to detail and
The exhibit was designed by the internationally famous Philadelphia
firm of Venturi, Scott and Brown, and administrated by the Cooper’s
Ferry Development Association. Funding of $900,000 came from the
River Port Authority. When Jingoli and Sons was hired in February,
construction was slated to begin in March.
"After getting documentation and permits, we couldn’t start until
mid-April," Skevington recalls. "And while the exhibit was
to open July 4th originally, the Aquarium decided to hold a Black
and White Ball for the press and for donors the week before
Skevington and his crew of 25, along with a contingent of
had to contend not only with a foreshortened schedule, but the
demands of esthetically duplicating a natural habitat.
"We had to sculpt the pool area step by step, working with the
Aquarium staff to craft different variations in water depth,"
he says. "We went through a whole series of different stains until
we got the precise effect. The concrete `beach’ had to be rocky; if
it was too smooth, it could cause infections in the birds’ feet. And
perches had to be placed so the birds could not only get out of the
water, but also to balance out the look of the entire exhibit."
The Jingoli staff worked weekends and evenings, as well as days, until
Skevington could change his hardhat for a tuxedo and attend the Black
and White Ball. "I took my superintendent — who might as well
have kept a cot there during construction," he says. "It was
the first time we could look down from an upper terrace and take a
deep breath. The people there clearly enjoyed how well the exhibit
had turned out, and we both said, `Wow! This really looks nice!’"
— Phyllis B. Maguire
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