Over three working days, 35 Scouts from Pack 888 in Colonial District led an invasive plant removal project, with 15 boys and girls from BSA Troop 993, Troop 876 and Troop 680, one Girl Scout from Troop 874, 40 adults and nine siblings, 101 people total to combine for 223.5 total service hours. They completed a sustainable environmental service project to apply for their fourth Hornaday Unit Award. This is the sixth time any unit will earn the award four times. The project in 2017 involved removing invasive Bradford Pear Trees; the project in 2018 was planting native trees, shrubs and perennials at the Mount Vernon Government Center; and in 2019 the project was building a pollinator garden at Hollin Meadows Elementary School.
When their annual spring service project was postponed by COVID-19, Pack 888 worked with Hornaday Advisor Sara Holtz to identify a project in their community, which offered space to gather scouts safely. They found a park in Fairfax County Park Authority’s (FCPA) Invasive Management Area Program (IMA) (https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/invasive-management-area), and with IMA site leader Tim Resch, worked remove invasive plants such as English ivy, Japanese stiltgrass, Bush Honeysuckle, Oriental Bittersweet and Japanese Holly, from Hollin Meadows Park in Alexandria.
A big change from previous environmental service projects was the goal – instead of building pollinator gardens or planting native species, this project’s goal was destruction and removal of non-native plants. Mr. Resch began each work day with an information session on identifying specific invasive plants and how to properly remove them.
Safety was a top priority, and in compliance with BSA guidelines and FCPA IMA guidelines, wearing masks was required, and physical distance was achieved by breaking down into small groups, each assigned to a specific area, to allow individuals to spread out.
Webelos Rosie Edwards said “We had just been doing zoom meetings and things this summer, but at the service project I actually got to see my Den in person. It was really nice!”
Webelos Zoe Runnels said what she liked most was “doing it with other people and seeing how big the pile was that we made.”
Arrow of Light Carson Latimer said “It felt good to do something that was helping the Earth. And I could all see the progress we made.”
And Wolf Jakob Bongiovanni really enjoyed the vine cutting, and enjoyed the destruction.
Arrow of Light Leonardo S. Arevalo wrote a summary of the project, how the purpose was “to remove invasive plants, like English Ivy, which damages trees’ bark, later it will overtake the tree to kill it. The leader who made this task told us the strategy, to roll the English Ivy like a carpet. Pack 888 enjoyed helping Mother Nature to protect the trees to receive pure oxygen. I hope people are helping to protect this planet.”
“It is an incredible honor to receive the Hornaday award four times,” said Pack Cubmaster, Tom Scala. “Pack 888 has a longstanding commitment to conservation and preserving the integrity of local landmarks and natural settings. Our conservation service projects are an important part of our commitment in giving back to our local community, and we are humbled to receive this prestigious award that recognizes the importance of that commitment.”
Picture by Jennifer Scala