By: Matt Abernathy
Park Assistant Director
Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center has always been proud to partner with both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts on a variety of service projects and rank advancements. In recent years, the demand for Eagle Scout and Gold Award projects has increased, along with an interest in promoting environmental conservation and expanding public access to nature. The staff at Jones Park strives to accommodate scouts with a variety of project ideas that appeal to their personal goals and interests.
One particular project especially appealed to longtime park visitor Austin Gurgos of Boy Scout Troop 331 in Spring. Austin and his family have visited Jones Park for more than a decade. Starting as preschoolers in the Tadpoles Club, Austin and his sister have participated in many park camps and programs over the years, eventually becoming volunteer counselors at Summer Nature Camp in 2018.
While meeting with Austin about Eagle Scout project ideas, I learned that one of his favorite memories of Jones Park was finding wildlife around the small bog pond near the front parking lot. Hearing this, I suggested that he enhance the bridge over the bog pond to make it accessible to our handicapped visitors. After all, the bog pond is one of the most frequently used teaching sites because of its proximity to the Nature Center. Austin jumped at the idea to give back to the community and was excited to work on a meaningful project!
In the following months, Austin researched the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), determined the specific modifications the bridge required and designed a completion plan. On the first work day, the Gurgos family was overwhelmed by the number of scouts, friends, and leaders that came to assist. This massive workforce built and attached the ramps, raised the handrails, and completed the bulk of the project in one day! It only took one other day to smooth out some rough edges before the bridge opened on Saturday, January 19. The project not only allows Austin to earn his Eagle Scout rank, but it also provides Jones Park visitors with an ADA-compliant bridge from which to view the small but diverse ecosystem below.
Along with Austin’s fine craftsmanship, many other scout projects have enhanced natural habitats throughout the park. Several scouts have assisted staff with managing areas of the forest, including the removal of invasive, non-native vegetation and seeding/planting native vegetation. Removing undesirable vegetation opens up the tree canopy so more light can reach the forest floor, which increases plant diversity throughout the park. Additional forestry management projects are in the works, as well as an upcoming scout project to refurbish the flight cage behind the Nature Center.
Overall, scouts assist park staff with improving the entirety of Jones Park, and we are grateful for their civic-minded support. For more information on scout projects, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.