Scouts Make a Difference at Hamilton County Nature Preserve

(INDIANAPOLIS) — In these stressful and anxious times, many folks—be it from walking through their backyard or looking out their window—turn to nature to provide solace and a bit of calm. 

 But who does Mother Nature turn to when she needs a little help? At a nature preserve in Hamilton County last fall, she got plenty of help from the Boy Scouts of America’s Carmel Pack 132.

 The nature preserve – Bitternut Woods, owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy – not only benefit from their efforts, but Carmel Pack 132 earned the prestigious William T. Hornaday Award. The award was presented to them in late February.

 “Seldom do you hear of an entire unit earning the William T. Hornaday Award,” says Jonathan Schalliol, committee chairman for Pack 132. “Often it is earned by a single scout. However, in the case of Carmel Pack 132, it was truly a group effort.”

 Named for conservationist Dr. William Temple Hornaday, the award is one of Scouting’s rarest honors — due to the rigor of its requirements.  Only about 1,200 medals have been awarded in the past 100 years. It is awarded for service in conservation and ecology. The program is designed to encourage learning about natural resource conservation and the environment, teach stewardship of the natural resources and the environment, and recognize those who are outstanding in the field of conservation. 

 Cub Scout Pack 132 made a major contribution to the restoration of a natural asset in Hamilton County, Indiana by removing invasive species and removing human-created refuse. In the process, the scouts learned the importance of keeping lands in a natural state, how to identify invasive species, how to remove invasive species so they do not immediately return, and that even elementary-aged children can make a substantial impact on nature.

 “Bitternut Woods is TNC’s only property in Hamilton County, and it faces a constant onslaught of invasive plants from the dense urban area that surrounds it,” says Larry Clemens, state director for The Nature Conservancy’s Indiana Chapter. “As a result, this property is one that desperately needs attention to keep in a natural state, and the scouts made a lasting difference through their hundreds of hours of restorative service.”

 Cub Scout Pack 132 learned how to identify invasive species and how to remove them effectively. Then they rolled up their sleeves and cleared nearly half of the Bitternut Woods’ 22 acres of honeysuckle, making room for native plants to grow.

 More than 300 hours were committed to the Bitternut Woods service project, with participation by all leaders and 95% of Pack 132 Cub Scouts.  The Pack continued to leverage the effort with education and communication to help scouts truly learn how to make a difference in conservation.

 The work at Bitternut Woods was part of a new program last year to engage youth in conservation. The program “Good Turn for Nature” was organized by TNC, in collaboration with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the BSA Crossroads of America Council, the Cope Environmental Center, local parks, community organizations, and nature centers to bring conservation to a local level.