PALMETTO: Scout helps with mosquito control

Published on: October 3, 2018

Quest for Eagle Scout rank leads to helping with mosquito control

By CARL MARIO NUDI

CARL MARIO NUDI PHOTOS
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, left, Jennifer Johnson, Bryson Johnson, Bryan Johnson, and Palmetto Commissioner Jonathan Davis, pose in front of a bat house installed Sept. 22 at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preserve Park as part of Bryson’s Eagle Scout project.

Sixteen-year-old Bryson Johnson has been in the Boy Scouts of America program since he was in first grade.

So it was no surprise that he would work toward the highest Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout.

“Being a scout is worth the time,” Johnson said. “It makes you a well-rounded kid.”

One of the requirements to earn the rank of Eagle Scout was to research, plan and complete a project that benefits a religious institution, a school or the community.

The Manatee High School sophomore built and helped install four bat houses on Sept. 22 at the Estuary Nature Preserve Park in Palmetto along U.S. 41 near the DeSoto Bridge.

“When I started thinking about my eagle project, the Zika virus (which is spread by mosquitoes) was in the news a lot,” Johnson said, “so I thought what kind of project will help in the community (to keep Zika under control)?

“We contacted the mayor, Shirley Groover Bryant, who is a family friend,” he said. “And she’s well-connected with the community needs.”

“Several local scouts have approached the city over the years about their eagle project,” said Bryant, who was at the park to watch Johnson work on his project, “and we love to partner with them.”

Estuary Preserve was picked because it was developed to fit into its natural setting, keeping much of the native plant growth, Johnson said.

He did research on the internet and found that bats help keep the mosquito population low.

“They eat their weight in mosquitoes every day,” Johnson said.

The high school honors student then began filling out the application.

“You have to do a lot of paperwork and have it approved by the scouting district office,” he said. “Then you have to raise funds and donations for supplies.”

Knowing that the bat houses would be constructed of wood, screws and paint, Johnson solicited the local Home Depot, Crowder Brothers Hardware and Holmes Beach Ace Hardware.

“This has been a long process for Bryson,” said Bryan Johnson, the scout’s father. “He started working on it about three years ago.

“Some projects are harder than others. This one was one of the harder ones,” the older Johnson said. “But the community in Manatee County was very helpful.”

The manager at the Holmes Beach Ace Hardware store was an Eagle Scout, and he paid for all of the items he donated, Bryan said.

Also helpful was PCSL Group Inc., a construction company, which donated flashing and screening, he said.

Troop 22 Scoutmaster Doug Bennett, who is a skilled workworker, assisted the younger Johnson with the cutting of the wood and assembly of the bat houses, Bryan said.

Palmetto Department of Public Works employees Robert Opdyke, left, supervisor; Robert Simpson, foreman; Mohammed Rayan, deputy director; and Don Barajas, service worker, discuss the best way to raise the post with the bat house attached. The DPW crew were on hand to assist Bryson Johnson, 16, with his Eagle Scout project of planning, building, and installing four bat houses at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preserve Park on Sept. 22.

Bryson is a member of Troop 22, which is sponsored by Palma Solo Presbyterian Church.

“They were very nice and open to helping me,” Bryson said of those in the community who he asked for assistance.

Palmetto City Commissioner Jonathan Davis, who was at the park while the bat houses were being installed, said he thought this was a perfect location for this eagle project.

“It’s great, especially with projects like this,” Davis said. “You can use nature instead of pesticides to control mosquitoes.”

The Palmetto Estuary Nature Preserve runs along a water inlet that flows into the Manatee River, with much of it a mangrove forest.

“Scouting is a great program,” the commissioner said. “It gives a kid confidence and great leadership skills.”

And scouting gets the young men out into nature and “away from the video games,” Davis added.

Bryson said as a scout, a teen experiences a lot of different activities many young people would not generally encounter.

“We do a lot of outdoor activities, like camping,” Bryson said, “but we also learn more practical things, like the law and money (management).”

He joined the scouting program as a Cub Scout when he was about 6 years old.

“In elementary school I didn’t make friends easily, and I wanted to try something different,” Johnson said. “I met a bunch of my life-long friends in scouting, and it’s carried me to today.”

Bryson Johnson, center, wearing Boy Scout uniform, helps Palmetto Department of Public Works employees Mohammed Rayan, deputy director; Don Barajas, service worker; Robert Simpson, foreman; and Robert Opdyke, supervisor, raise a post with the bat house attached. The DPW crew were on hand to assist Johnson, 16, with his Eagle Scout project of planning, building, and installing four bat houses at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preserve Park on Sept. 22.

The 10th-grader matches his achievements in scouting with accomplishments in schooling and other activities.

“It’s hard for him to balance wrestling, honor classes, engineering classes, (and family responsibilities) with scouting,” said Bryson’s mother, Jennifer Johnson, “but he’s doing it really well.

“I’m proud he’s doing well with his grades in school,” she said.

His parents were at the Estuary Nature Preserve watching as Bryson helped the Palmetto Department of Public Works employees erect the bat houses on top of poles at least 20-feet tall and anchored into the ground.

“Participating in scouting has helped bring our family closer together,” Jennifer said, “and we got to know the other scouting families very well.

“He’s an only child and grandchild, so scouting has become like an extended family for us,” she said. “He’s very family-oriented.”

Jennifer also said scouting has helped her son develop as a thoughtful young man.

“We were in Walmart one time and a guy knocked over the bottle display,” she said. “Bryson didn’t hesitate and just went over and helped (the man) pick them up.

“He helps people naturally,” Jennifer said. “I’m really proud of him. He’s a good kid.”

Character-building and teaching values has been the mission of the Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, since its founding in 1910 and has more than 2.4 million youth as members, according to the organization’s website.

The mostly volunteer-run organization has a Cub Scout program traditionally for boys, and starting this year for girls, in kindergarten through fifth grade. 

Boys from 11 to 20 years old and — in 2019 — girls will be able to join the BSA.

In the scouting program for the older youth, a scout progresses through ranks from Tenderfoot to Second Class, and then on to First Class and Star and Life before being qualified for the highest rank of Eagle.

The first Eagle Scout medal was awarded to 17-year-old Arthur Rose Eldred in 1912.

Since then the requirements to attain this rank have been basically the same, with a few tweaks.

Bryson Johnson, far right, watches as Palmetto Public Works Department employees secure a post with a bat house on top into the ground. The DPW crew were on hand to assist Johnson, 16, with his Eagle Scout project of planning, building, and installing four bat houses at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preserve Park on Sept. 22.

The applicant has to demonstrate he lives by the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law and provide to the review board personal references attesting to his character.

The scout has to have earned at least 21 merit badges, which are assignments the young man undertakes and learns about a specific sport, craft, science, trade, or business and each having its own requirements.

Of the 21, the scout has to have earned the First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communication, Cooking, Personal Fitness, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, Environmental Science or Sustainability, Personal Management, Swimming or Hiking or Cycling, Camping and Family Life merit badges.

The Eagle Scout applicant also has to have held specific leadership positions and offices in his troop throughout his scouting career and take part in a leadership conference.

And while a Life Scout, the applicant then begins to plan and develop his Eagle Scout project, which has to be completed before he turns 18.

Once the project is completed, the scout has to present an extensive report to a board for review.

Throughout the years many successful and prominent men have been Eagle Scouts, including President Gerald Ford, astronaut Neil Armstrong, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, and film director Steven Spielberg.

Now that Bryson has completed his project, he will submit his report to the board for review and wait to join the ranks of other Eagle Scouts.

“This is a weight off my shoulders,” Bryson said. “The bat houses are something that will be here for a long time, even after I’m out of scouting.”

For more information about the Boy Scouts of America, visit their website at www.scouting.org.

To find an active troop in your area go to the Southwest Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America website at www.swflcouncilbsa.org.

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