Walt Whitman loved the waters of what is now Laurel Springs, NJ.
In the late 19th century, the renowned poet wrote verse in the lovely corner of Camden County where Crystal Springs empties into the Big Timber Creek.
But the waterway where Whitman also enjoyed skinny-dipping and mud-bathing is now threatened by sedimentation, particularly in the Laurel Lake portion.
"Twenty-five or 30 years ago, the lake was anywhere from four to 10 feet deep. Now it's from four inches to three feet, max," says borough council president James Redstreake, an organizer of the first large-scale cleanup in several years. The water level will be further lowered to faciliate removal of debris.
The event begins at 9 AM Saturday, April 6 at Crystal Springs Park. Borough firefighters, members of the South Jersey Land and Water Trust, local Scout troops and volunteers from neighboring Lindenwold and Stratford plan to pitch in.
"We hope to make the lake as pristine as possible," says Elizabeth Kuehner Smith, a Floridian whose family has owned land along the water for generations. Her group, Friends of Laurel Lake, seeks to preserve that ground as open space "in perpetuity."
Walt would approve.