Boy Scout plants 110 trees along U.S. Route 127, rescues over 40 more

Three years ago in an effort to incorporate more environmental projects, the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant planted 105 trees along each side of the U.S. Route 127 ramp near Central Michigan University’s Global Campus. But many of the trees have died since that time.

Rotary Club’s Treasurer Robert Wheeler says that difficulty getting water to the area was the main contributor to the trees dying.

“When you first plant a tree, you should nurture it by periodically watering it, until it can really sink its roots down and take hold,” says Wheeler. “But in order to water, that we had to rely upon a member’s tank from his farm that we would fill up with water and then carry the hose to all 105 trees — it’s quite onerous. So that's the reason we lost most of them.”

14-year-old Mt. Pleasant resident Spencer Melton says that another issue was the girdling, which was eroding and stripping the bark off of the bottom of the trees. Melton, who is a member of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Troop 604B, took on the initiative a year ago as his project to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout.  

Melton says that of the 105 seeds that were originally planted, about 43 of them were still alive by wintertime.

“In the summer I protected that area at the base of the trunk with some corrugated piping so that the bark wouldn’t get attacked, and I mulched them too,” says Melton.

Recently Melton has planted more. On April 24, with the help of his friends, family, and other Boy Scouts, 110 additional saplings of various oaks and conifers were planted at the site.

“An Eagle project is not a project that the boy is supposed to do, but a project that the boy is supposed to organize and show leadership. So he has to recruit people to help him, the facilities that he needs, all the equipment…that's his primary job as an eagle candidate, to show leadership in developing and carrying out the project that's a benefit to the community,” says Wheeler, who also has been involved with BSA for 50 years and serves as the Commissioner in the Heartland District Commissioner for the organization.

To complete his Eagle Scout project, Melton says the trees will need to be cared for and watered regularly until their roots fully develop and they are able to fend for themselves. His goal is to become an Eagle Scout by the end of the summer.

“In order to get an Eagle Scout, you have to accumulate a significant number of individual merit badges and have gone through all the other ranks — there are like six of them,” says Wheeler. “You also have to show leadership in your troop by being in a position there like a senior patrol leader or some other entity where you're helping out your troop, and then you have to do one of these projects. Only about 3% of all Boy Scouts ever get to be an Eagle Scout, it’s quite an elite group.”
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Liz Fredendall is a photojournalist and communications professional with experience working with nonprofits. In addition to her work with Epicenter, Liz manages communications for the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, runs her own photography business, and writes for several publications. During her free time, Liz enjoys reading and exploring with her husband Erick and their Corgi, Nori. Contact or follow her on social media @lizfredendallphoto.