Eagle scout project benefits arboretum

Published 7:16 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Invasive plants choke the life out of the ecosystems they invade, so on Saturday a Boy Scout seeking his Eagle badge sought to help control plants invading Crosby Arboretum’s pond as his Eagle project.

Water plants thrive in the pond areas at the Arboretum, and every so many seasons Terry Johnson, the facility’s superintendent of Buildings and Grounds removes some of those plants manually to allow room for native plants. Since the arboretum has a policy against using chemicals to control plant growth alligator weed and water cabbage are removed by hand so water lillies can grow, Johnson said.

This season Johnson has some help from a local scouts as one of them works to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

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Ben Daniel is helping Johnson clean South American alligator weed out the arboretum waterways of the as his Eagle Scout project. Following the Boy Scout code, some of Daniel’s fellow scouts volunteered to help him with his project.

The operation involved Daniel and Johnson cutting the alligator weed and water cabbage with machetes and removing them from around the banks while volunteers fished it from the water with rakes and pitch forks. Removing the alligator weed and water cabbage will allow the native water lillies to thrive, Daniel said.

In one summer the alligator weed can grow six to eight feet in length, and even one left over root can spawn into a large collection of vegetation in a short time, Johnson said.

Daniel said his project will encompass all the water bodies that are part of the arboretum’s walking trail and will continue this Saturday and Sunday. Working two weekends will provide Daniel the 100 hours he needs to gain the rank of Eagle Scout.

“More important than getting the hours is doing something out here,” Daniel said.

Daniel said he wanted to give back to the arboretum since the arboretum affords the scouts many opportunities to earn merit badges, free of charge.

A senior at Picayune Memorial High School, Daniel said he plans to attend the University of Chicago to earn a degree in philosophy or political science. With those degrees, he said he plans to return to Picayune area and use his education to help the community.

His time in Boy Scouts has given Daniel the mindset of giving back to the community and to conduct good deeds while expecting nothing in return, he said.