Eagle Scouts Make Key Improvements to Nature Preserves

By Raymond Clarke, Vice-President, Open Land Conservancy of Chester County

openlandconservancy.org

Open Land Conservancy of Chester County (“the Conservancy”) stewards approximately 500 acres of open space in the Valley Creek watershed in northern Chester County.  In these days of climate change, that stewardship has to go beyond letting nature take its course.  Intense rainstorms stress the natural stormwater management of our flood plains and forests and erode the trails that allow the community to enjoy the preserves.  The Conservancy’s long-standing partnership with scouting, and in particular the Eagle Scout program, has delivered improvements that allow us to – literally! – weather the storm.

The Eagle projects are far too many (bridges, kiosks, fences, erosion control structures, trail construction, tree planting, etc.!) to detail here, so we’ll just highlight two recent projects that provided immediate benefit to the preserves and the visitor experience.  In the Airdrie Forest Preserve in Paoli, Eagle Scout Na C. and his Paoli 1 team built a bridge crossing over a stormwater erosion gully, plus a check dam and water bar to help control erosion.

In the George Lorimer Preserve, off North Valley Road in Tredyffrin, the Conservancy had just completed a major project to remove a dam and small pond that were threatened by stormwater runoff causing major erosion.  That project removed a culvert that carried a trail over the small tributary and widened the channel upstream of the project, making it difficult for visitors to cross.  Mats M. and his team, also from Paoli 1, built a boardwalk on the trail, to immediate visitor acclaim.  The graded project site, awaiting planting, is in the background of the photo below.

These two projects were undertaken by scouts from Paoli 1, but many scouts from many other troops have worked with OLC – particularly members of the Devon 50 troop.

The Conservancy has seen first-hand that not only do these projects benefit the nature preserves and their visitors, they are also great experiences for the scouts involved.  Starting with general parameters from Conservancy leadership, the Eagle Scouts learn how to design, document, plan and execute a project.  Their input to the design process has led to important improvements in the final products.  The team members learn useful practical skills.  And finally, all involved see how collaboration between users and providers can lead to great results that benefit the community at large.  The Conservancy and its members look forward to more Eagle projects in the years to come.