Historic Indian Spring Protected (NJ)

Clementon, NJ, October 27, 2005:The nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Borough of Clementon announced today the purchase of the 35-acre Signal Hill property for conservation and public recreation. The protected property includes the historic Indian Spring where Walt Whitman wrote the last part of Leaves of Grass and a trail system already heavily used by the public.

“Although this land was proposed for a housing development, it is clear to all involved that its conservation is a better option for the Borough of Clementon,” said Cindy Roberts, senior project manager for the Trust for Public Land.

“This land is rich with history and natural resources, and this protection effort offers residents of and visitors to the Borough of Clementon with unparalleled views of this area,” said Mayor Mark Armbruster of the Borough of Clementon.

John H. Fisher in, Clementon—A Historical Outline, notes that the Grist Mill and Clementon Lake were favorite habitats for a frequent visitor, Walt Whitman. The last part of Leaves of Grass was written in the “quiet woodland solitude at the Indian Spring,” in Clementon at the base of Signal Hill. Whitman became friends with Theodore Gibbs, who owned the mill at that time, and his oldest son James. The poet would apparently “stroll from the Stafford farm in nearby Laurel Springs to the Indian Spring, shed pants and shoes and sit at the edge of the spring to allow the water to flow forcefully over his aching limbs.”

Conservation of the land, which drains into the North Branch of the Big Timber Creek, is critical to protecting water quality in the headwaters area where spring water bubbles up from the ground. The wetlands on the property give way to forests and steep slopes, and ultimately scenic views from the 199-foot peak, including the Philadelphia skyline.

Funding for the $3.3 million purchase was provided by the Camden County Open Space Trust Fund ($1.5 million) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ($1.35 million from Green Acres, an Environmental Infrastructure Trust loan to be repaid by the town, and a grant from the Office of Natural Resource Restoration facilitated by Conservation Resources, Inc.). The Trust for Public Land also contributed $150,000 from a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

“Our goal is to protect our communities from excessive land development and preserve the environmental, cultural, agricultural, historic and scenic features that define our towns and neighborhoods,” said Freeholder Jeffrey L. Nash, who oversees the county’s open space initiative.

The Camden County Freeholder Board has authorized a November 8 ballot question seeking a one-cent increase in the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund levy. If approved by the voters, the funds would be used for similar projects to protect drinking water sources and water quality, improve park safety, and preserve natural areas and open space throughout Camden County.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL started its the River to Bay Greenway initiative in 2000 to give residents in rapidly growing southern New Jersey communities the opportunity to connect with some of the state’s most impressive natural areas. In just five years, TPL has protected eight properties totaling more than 400 acres for the greenway in Camden County alone. The work has been made possible by the commitment of Camden County, the State of New Jersey, various municipalities, and private support from the William Penn Foundation. With its state office in Morristown, TPL has protected approximately 23,000 acres throughout New Jersey.