Throughout the years numerous Boy Scouts started their path to becoming an Eagle Scout with projects for the NAS Patuxent River community. From tree removal and nature trail maintenance, to building foot bridges and constructing new camp sites, the Boy Scouts and NAS Patuxent River indeed have a long-standing partnership.
Having worked with Boy Scout troops on base projects for more than 30 years, Pax River Conservation Director Kyle Rambo said, "We have a lot of great opportunities to teach them leadership skills and make meaningful contributions to the public. It's partnering at its best."
One project completed this summer was led by Phillip Scassero, a 17-year-old Leonardtown High School student who is working to earn his Eagle Scout rank.
Scassero and his team of 20 other scouts put in more than 100 hours throughout the past year clearing and preparing two tent areas in an abandoned section of the Goose Creek campgrounds.
Scassero said finishing the project was a mixture of relief and pride.
"Eagle Scout projects are certainly very stressful and time consuming, but I had an excellent team of workers who helped me create something great for the community," he said in an email. "I am both proud of our accomplishment and proud of them for a job well done."
Each campsite comes complete with a private access to the water giving campers an opportunity to fish or launch small craft such as a kayak or canoe. The sites also have a charcoal grill, fire ring and a picnic table.
But their time and effort weren't all spent on site, the scouts also volunteered their time gathering supplies and equipment as scout projects must be completed using donated resources.
Frank Pace, recreation manager for Pax River's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division, said, "Thanks to Phillip and his team, campers at NAS Patuxent River will be able to experience nature at its best."
Scassero will find out whether he attained the Eagle rank by the end of the year.
Other projects scouts have completed on base include shoreline erosion control by adding plants along Harper's Creek, building foot bridges and benches along the six-mile long Pepperbush trails at the southern end of the base, a handicap accessible duck hunting blind on Goose Creek, fishing enhancements at Calvert Pond and an archery qualification range near Shaw Road.
"Some of these projects are really big projects where they're using chain saws and hand saws to remove old fallen trees, some two to three feet wide," Rambo said. "They want to help and we get talented, willing, consistent and motivated labor, so it's a win-win for everyone."
While many of the projects are completed by Eagle Scout candidates to meet their service project requirement, Rambo said the base also gets a lot of volunteer scout labor from the Order of Arrow Boy Scouts, or the national honor society of the Boy Scouts.
Twice a year Pax hosts this group's Ordeal weekend. During the weekend, held in the spring and fall, the scouts spend an entire day completing volunteer service projects: Mattapany Day Camp repairs such as screen replacement, pruning, raking and painting; tree removal and trail maintenance around the base; and other outdoor recreation area enhancements.
"And they do this in complete silence and with minimum rations," Rambo said about the Ordeal weekend requirements.
Scassero is no stranger to Order of Arrow either. Over the last four years he has also participated in a couple of Ordeal weekend events.
He said Pax offers scouts a place to camp that's relatively close yet offers them exposure to the natural world as if they were camping in a national park.
"Aside from the nature aspect, Pax also offers unique mentoring experiences for scouts who are working on merit badges. Such mentoring from those actually working in the field can be a rare find anywhere else, but at Pax River it is close at hand, an invaluable asset that aided me as I earned my aviation merit badge," he said.
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations, according to the Boy Scouts of America website. The Boy Scouts program builds character and trains young people in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness. For information on local Boy Scout troops, visit the National Capital Area Council website, www.BoyScouts-ncac.org.
Valerie Doster, NAS Patuxent River Marketing and Sponsorship Coordinator, contributed to this article.