Scout designs garden for conservancy

January 09, 2003

Bart Wright, 17, an 11th-grader at River Hill High School, has planted a garden of native plants to mark the entrance to the Howard County Conservancy on Old Frederick Road in Woodstock.

"I wanted to make the entranceway more significant, more like an entrance," said Bart, who made the garden his Eagle Scout project.

The conservancy, which offers nature and conservation programs for children and adults, occupies Mount Pleasant Farm. The entrance, marked by a sign, is a small road surrounded by meadows.

Putting together a garden was new territory for Bart, who lives in West Friendship.

"I have [gardened] a little bit, but not like actually set my mind to it until this," he said. He liked the idea of using native plants, which thrive in their home environments and help promote botanical diversity.

"Around here, a lot of native plants are kind of dying down because of development and all, and so it kind of re-introduces them," he said.

Bart wrote grant proposals, winning $820 to help fund his project. The funds came from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. He found growers through the Maryland Native Plant Society and collected plants, as donations or at reduced prices, from Sun Nurseries in Woodbine and Sylva Native Nursery in Freeland.

Then, working with conservancy Director Liz Stoffel and master gardener Paula Behm-Windle, Bart planned the garden.

"We saw pictures of certain plants, and we chose other ones that looked they would fit in in certain spots. Planting took a couple of weekends," he said.

The soil was poor. So before planting, Scouts from Bart's troop, Boy Scout Troop 555, helped Bart prepare it by "strip composting," putting down layers of newspaper covered with mulch and compost, to avoid tilling. The plants will get most of their nutrients from the raised bed, and the method helps reduce runoff to the Chesapeake Bay.

On Nov. 23 and 24, after a three-week wait for the mixture to ripen, Bart and fellow Scouts spent two days planting trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials - a Scarlet Oak tree, Eastern Redbud, Inkberry, Winterberry, Witchhazel, St. John's Wort, Joe-pye Weed, Black-eyed Susans, Butterfly Weed, Bluestem and Broomsedge, said his mother, Gretchen Wright.

In addition to the trees and shrubs, she said, "you can see the twigs sticking up through the snow."

The project has yet to be written up and approved; then an Eagle Court of Honor must be scheduled before September, when Bart turns 18.

Other Eagle Scout projects at the conservancy have included an archaeological dig, painting two of the farm's nine outbuildings, building a bridge, restoring a stone wall and planting 1,000 trees as a riparian stream buffer, said Martha Moore, the conservancy's volunteer coordinator.

"It feels pretty good," Bart said. "I had a good time doing it."

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