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Eagle Scout Project Benefits Watershed

Restoring natural habitats helps Chesapeake Bay.

There's an old saying, "Eagles don't flock. You have to find them one at a time."

That was nowhere more evident than on Essex Manor Place in Mount Vernon District the morning of Nov. 19. There 50 volunteers, youth and adult, under the direction of 16-year-old Eagle Scout candidate Eric Trouton, worked together on a restoration project to improve the Little Hunting Creek Watershed.

Trouton's Eagle Scout project is not only aiding the watershed and Chesapeake Bay, it is also saving Fairfax County approximately $10,000. That's the estimated labor cost to the county.

Fairfax County supplied 39 native trees and 221 native shrubs to retrofit a stormwater retention pond located about a mile from Eric's home. As one of many projects in the watershed management plan, it is being implemented to protect and restore a small stream that flows into Little Hunting Creek and eventually into the bay.

"The pond serves as a stormwater retention pond. By putting in new plantings we retrofit it to provide better water quality. The water is held in the pond and treated before being released into Little Hunting Creek," explained Steve Aitcheson, deputy director, Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division, Public Works and Environmental services, Fairfax County.

"Eric organized all the landscaping. Got the volunteers and is managing their planting. Some of the plants are designed to be underwater for a short period of time," Aitcheson said.

"There are about four or five of these type projects underway but this is the biggest. I spent more than 30 hours planning this project," said the West Potomac High School junior.

"This is like the first line of defense in watershed management. I like the nature element of this project and helping the environment," Trouton said.

"Most of the volunteers are other scouts from my Troop 1509 as well as from St. Aidans Church and just friends. There are also a lot of adults and parents participating," he said.

WHEN ASKED if he was thinking about a possible career in environmental services or horticulture, Trouton said, "There's a lot of things I could do but I'm really not sure at this time. I really like politics. I think it could provide a lot of opportunities to help in many ways."

That assessment was buttressed by Eric's Scout Master Lin Jongema. "His scouting experience has prepared him to become a responsible citizen. And, Eric is a natural born leader," Jongema said.

"His job was to plan, coordinate and lead this project. That meant not only working with other scouts and friends his age but also working with a variety of adults on a peer to peer basis," he said.

"Age 16 is just the right time for an Eagle Scout effort like this. They've had four years of practice and working up through the leadership ranks. This is the culmination of those years," Jongema said.

Troop 1509 has over 75 registered youths and approximately 35 registered adults working within the scouting program, according to Jongema. Eric is a member of the Falcon Patrol.

"Many of these scouts have been together since they were six years old in Cub Scouts. Right now we have about 12 Eagle candidates in the Falcon Patrol," Jongema said.

However, Saturday's volunteers were not limited to Boy Scouts, there were a variety of females sloshing along the muddy pond banks hauling and planting trees and shrubs. "My parents are very supportive of me doing projects like this," said Dianne Thompson.

Bruce Clubb, Eagle Advisor within Troop 1509, mentors scouts as they are approaching the development and planning of an Eagle Project. "I try to teach them time management which is essential to the success of their project," he said.

"The entire goal of scouting is to turn boys into responsible men. Eagle candidates have to learn to deal with adults on a peer level," Clubb stated.

TROOP 1509 Eagle Projects have encompassed such diverse endeavors as organizing a drive to collect and delivery school supplies to students in Iraq, design and construction of a wheelchair ramp at Plymouth Haven Baptist Church, and forest reclamation at Mount Vernon Estate.

Implementation of the Little Hunting Creek Watershed Management Plan began in February 2005. It includes large-scale stream cleanups, stream and buffer restorations, creation of additional wetlands and installation of new stormwater quantity and quality control mechanisms, such as Eric's project.

Shrubs and trees placed on the banks of the retention pond by Trouton and his assembled volunteers will provide erosion and sediment control for the stormwater management facility and receiving stream. They will also help absorb excess nutrients carried in stormwater runoff, according to Aitcheson.

Throughout, Saturday's project both youth and adult volunteers were coming to Trouton for instructions and leadership. He didn't hesitate to supply both as well as do his share of the physical labor.