• Eagle Scout service projects improve post

  • Fort Leavenworth Natural Resources Specialist Neil Bass gave a group of Boy Scouts access to an area to work toward completing Ted Conrad’s Eagle Scout service project April 29.

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Fort Leavenworth Natural Resources Specialist Neil Bass gave a group of Boy Scouts access to an area to work toward completing Ted Conrad’s Eagle Scout service project April 29.
    Bass has been working with local Scout organizations throughout the year. The work ranges from the conception and completion of various Eagle Scout service projects to some of the Scouts learning about the environmental benefits of different plants.
    “Ted Conrad is finishing construction of several turtle basking platforms to deploy on the lakes on Fort Leavenworth as his Eagle Scout service project,” Bass said. “Ted’s team utilized conventional materials to build the floating platforms that will also allow the turtles to climb upon them from the water.”
    Bass said turtles need sunlight to stay healthy. He said the ultraviolet light from the sun helps prevent fungus infection and strengthens the shell of turtles.
    Conrad said the project is a practical solution to an immediate need. He said the design of the basking platform went through a prototype phase before the final version.
    “We originally conceived of building the entire platform from scratch,” Conrad said. “But, after consideration, we decided to modify, and reuse, existing wood pallets to serve as habitats.”
    Conrad said the use of modified PVC tubing secured underneath the wood pallets serves as a pontoon flotation mechanism. He said his team used the prototype as a model to build more platforms.
    “Several fellow Scouts have volunteered to work today,” Conrad said. “We will pull the pallets apart, reassemble them into the configuration of our platform design and then paint them.”
    Eagle Scouts Ethan Conners, a freshman, and Weston Marshall, a sophomore, both attend Leavenworth High School. They were part of the team to support Conrad’s project.
    “We’re here to help a fellow Scout and build platforms for turtles to be able to come out of the water and bask,” Conners said.
    Air Force Master Sgt. Preston Schmitz, from the 139th Air Wing of the Missouri National Guard, lives on post with his family. His son Garrett is a sixth-grader at MacArthur Elementary School and was on hand to help Conrad.
    “Scouting has shown Garrett the benefits of working as a team and working with other kids,” Schmitz said. “In an age where his generation commonly interacts using technology, Scouting is another opportunity to network with each other in person and learn very useful social skills as well.”
    Bass said Conrad and his team would finish building and painting the basking platforms that day. He said the project would have an immediate impact on the quality of life and health of the turtles on post.
    Page 2 of 3 - “All of the projects will directly affect natural resources in various ways that have real benefits to both plants and animals,” Bass said. “As an example, another Eagle Scout project led by Conor Rom removed an invasive species, bush honeysuckle, that out-competes native shrubs and is not as beneficial to pollinators or nesting birds.”
    Bass said Rom and several members of Troop 66 also replanted 200 native flowering shrubs to fill the void left after removing the bush honeysuckle along a fitness trail near Hunt Loop.
    Rom said several factors influenced his decision to undertake the particular service project involving bush honeysuckle. His motivation was also practical to his schedule and other activities.
    “I decided on this project because I felt it was a project I could handle. And, I liked the idea of helping the environment and animals,” Rom said. “It was also a project that was easy for other Scouts to be involved in.”
    In addition to Bass, Rom acknowledged Assistant Scout Master Marco Conners and fellow Scouts for their input and contributions to the team he assembled to complete the work. He said the project took two days to finish.
    “On the first morning we cut and cleared honeysuckle plants,” Rom said. “On the second morning, we planted 200 native plants near and around where we had cut down the honeysuckle.”
    Bass said the work Rom accomplished set a baseline for what is inherently an ongoing facet of the natural resources management process to maintain balance among the various species.
    “It is a long process and Conor’s work was the first and largest step in that process,” Bass said. “Now the work is more like mop up and maintenance.”
    Bass said he is also working with Carlos Vega, a Life Scout with Troop 167. He said although Vega’s Eagle Scout service project is still in the administrative approval process, it is relevant to conservation of a Kansas species in need of such consideration.
    “I will be working on flying squirrel nest boxes located here at Fort Leavenworth and we’ll place them at the locations mapped out by Mr. Bass,” Vega said.
    Vega said he always wanted to help with a project on the post. He said Bass and fellow Scouts from Troop 167 would be part of his team.
    Vega said the project would take approximately one to two months to complete. He said this estimate includes the time necessary to go through administrative processing and approval by the council.
    “I found out about this (project) from an adult in my troop. The flying squirrels are in the first level (species in need of conversation) of the State of Kansas Endangered Species list,” Vega said. “These nest boxes will give us a way to keep track of the squirrels and provide them areas to populate.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Bass said constructing the nest boxes would not only provide shelter, but they will also act as monitoring stations.
    “It has been over a decade since a survey to reverify the squirrels’ presence on Fort Leavenworth has been done,” Bass said.
    Bass said Girl Scouts are also building southern flying squirrel nest boxes and other projects.
    “The Girl Scouts planted 16 flowering shrubs near the Hastings House,” Bass said. “The project helped them learn about the benefits of native flowering plants.”
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