Eagle Scouts on the job

Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 111,  Collin Miller designed and built bird houses and platforms for three species of birds, to be sold at RNC and erected in their garden.

Local Boy Scouts Justin Hardin and Collin Miller have added to the natural amenities at Riverside Nature Center with their Eagle Scout projects.

‘Apartments’ for pollinators

Justin Hardin of Kerrville said he was looking for an Eagle Scout project when “insect houses” caught his interest.

He said he already knew about Collin Miller’s probable birdhouse plans, but Hardin was already interested in bees, butterflies and ladybugs and how to attract them to some new housing in the RNC garden.

“The project has to benefit the community somehow; and I chose Riverside Nature Center because they’re already a big part of the community,” Hardin said. “I was referred to them by Collin Miller; and they wanted this at the nature center.”

“I looked into Mason Bees and Carpenter Bees and where they like to live; and also about honeybees, but they mostly build their own hives,” he said. “And wasps are pretty similar, just ‘angry bees’.”

He said he also studied red ladybugs, and the black ones with red dots on their wings.

And he also included butterflies.

In all, he concentrated on insects that would travel from plant to plant in the RNC garden and pollinate those plants as they moved around.

“The ‘house’ I designed was not made for hummingbirds,” Hardin said. “I mostly used the internet, and found a lot of good reference pictures to go by.”

He said he learned that some bees like the holes in bricks because they’re attracted to mortar or stone.

And he used some paper tubes, like wide paper straws, to create open tubes for other insects, when he considered he also would have to cut the reeds to create open tubes if he used that material.

He said the materials for an Eagle Scout project are generally paid for by the scout. He and his family spent about $300, and also his father’s employer made a donation through RNC. His total costs were about $750, increased mostly because of plywood and lumber prices.

Hardin said he first started considering ideas for this project in late 2020 or early 2021. His actual labor on the two “panels” started last August.

“I mostly worked in our garage at home, and then at the nature center. I got help from scouts Will Marquardt, Logan Jackson, Collin Miller and Chris Miller; and from Bianca Rodillo and Gazelle Schreiner from NHS at school.

By then he really had to concentrate on the project, because his 18th birthday on Sept. 9 was his agreed deadline to get all the paperwork signed by Executive Director Becky Etzler at the Riverside Nature Center.

And he did finish by his birthday. He said he’s also giving some of his planning material to the RNC so they can create an informational sign to be added to his pollinator habitat.

“The insects will probably be a lot more active in the spring. Bark will attract butterflies; and pine cones, the ladybugs; various kinds of bees would live in the reeds or masonry, or the carpenter bees on the wooden pieces.”

“After a Boy Scout turns 18, he’s not really the same kind of member, more like an adult leader.”

There’s a specific process for every Eagle Scout project, and it starts with the individual scout’s local troop approving the scout’s plans (Hardin is a member of local Troop 111); and also approval from the next level up, the Boy Scout Council based in San Antonio.

Troop 111 is based at Notre Dame Catholic Church; and the scoutmaster was Robert Collier, and later Kevin Marquardt.

“We used to meet at the church, but now we’re meeting at the Museum of Western Art,” Hardin said.

He said Eagle Scout projects can include a wide range of things. He has participated with other Scouts in a park clean-up, some building-based projects, and helping “terra-form” a mini-disc golf course at Schreiner University.

“One of our scouts created the large cross at Our Lady of the Hills Prep School. That was his project as an Eagle Scout.”

Hardin will graduate from Tivy High School in May 2022; and already is working at Little Caesar’s.

“One reason I did this was because colleges like to see the Eagle Scout rank on your resume.”

He said he is considering attending either Sam Houston State University or Texas A&M University – College Station. And he hopes his current “tenure” at Little Caesar’s will get him into a job with the same company in either of those cities.

Birdhouses for three species

Collin Miller, another Troop 111 member, started as a Cub Scout in second grade, 11 years ago. He said he chose his Eagle Scout project also to benefit the RNC, to give back to the community.

“Afterwards we get recognized for what we do, too.”

He said his parents Brandon and Diana Miller started the Cub Scout Pack 1205 at the Kroc Center.

“When I was considering my Eagle project, I thought about the HEB Camp, because we went hiking there once and saw that the trail needed better markers. But when I pitched my idea to the camp director, they went ahead and did it, instead.”

Then, he said he talked to the nature center leaders about possible bird boxes; and they agreed.

“I looked up native birds in the Hill Country, so the birdhouses would be designed to attract more of them and sustain higher numbers,” Miller said.

He settled on three – platforms for Barn Swallows, and boxes for Eastern Bluebirds and Titmouses.

The two bird boxes are about the same shape, but one has a larger entrance hole than the other.

Miller said he pitched his idea to Etzler; and then approached lumberyards to check on prices.

“When I proposed this, it began with a talk with a troopmaster about “ranking” my project. Then the Eagle Board examines the plan before the council checks it, and says to go ahead or deny or suggest an alternative.

“The project needs to have the scout do something for the community, something active, or that provides something and has a lasting impact.”

Miller said he helped before on a group project for a handicapped ramp.

“The council wants us to do this in a group to experience leadership. I had five or six people on mine, including family. I had to keep track of expenses and donations.”

In all, Miller said he constructed between 20 and 30 birdhouses of each design, a total of more than 60 finished bird “houses” and left most of them to be sold at RNC. Almost all went to new homes.

Miller said he left two pre-cut kits for Barn Swallow platforms at the RNC gift shop, for sale; and they include the necessary nails and pre-drilled holes. And he donated some pre-cut kits to Kerrville Parks & Recreation Department.

In each kit, Miller inserted an envelope containing his construction instructions.

He said, “On the box style, one screw can be removed to allow one side to open, to clean out the box. And I left narrow drainage slits on the bottom.”

Miller also is officially an Eagle Scout now, since his project is complete and was approved by the final Eagle board.

He’s 18 and a senior at Tivy High, and has a younger brother Christopher who also helped him with his project.

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