Serving others and the planet through conservation

By Thomas Van Horn

Earth Day is an annual reminder that our planet needs our help. It is also a great opportunity for Scouts and Arrowmen to provide meaningful service to help conserve their area’s natural beauty. With Earth Day approaching on April 22nd, 2015, we wanted to know about some of the best conservation-themed service projects from across the nation. So we took to Facebook and the responses were astounding.

Many Arrowmen commented about their experiences at OA High Adventure, most often the Philmont OA Trail Crew (OATC). As an integral part of the Philmont conservation crew, OATC helps create and maintain trails that work with the landscape and will be around for 50 years or more. OA programs from the past, including ArrowCorps5 and ArrowPower were also popular answers. These programs have provided thousands of service hours to our National Parks, helping to rebuild damaged trails and remove invasive species that threaten local species. Some sections, such as Section C-6B, have even sponsored special conservation projects for their Arrowmen.

For many, however, their favorite conservation project occurred at the local level. Claude Thouret remembers a time when “there were projects for merit badges only.” His favorite was the Conservation merit badge, where he had an anti-erosion project to help a local farmer. Glenn Draper remembers planting smog-resistant trees in the local mountains, while Gareth Evans likes any project “that let me cut down honeysuckle then take a weed-whip and destroy the bushes.” The majority of local conservation service projects came from Eagle Scout projects. Departing from the old standard of building things, these dedicated Scouts took it upon themselves to improve their community through conservation.

One such Scout is Matthew Watson, who most enjoyed preserving the old baptism trail at his church, which has been around since before the Civil War, for his Eagle Scout service project. Matthew explained that this trail, the Standing Springs Baptist Church baptism trail, is the oldest monument in Simpsonville, South Carolina. However, over time it had become very rough and deeply forested and there was no way the older members of the church could hike it. For his project, he brought 80 volunteers to completely remake the trail, including adding a golf cart trail and special parking to accommodate older or disabled members.

By putting a conservation spin on their cheerful service, Arrowmen from across the nation have helped preserve our country’s heritage, which allows others to enjoy it for generations to come. Perhaps, in honor of this Earth Day, you or your local lodge can put on a conservation service project.

Baptism Trail

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