BRISTOL – Matt Girard has recently received his official Eagle Scout rank for a project he completed at Barnes Nature Center.
Matt, 17, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 29. His project was to create a tree identification trail at Barnes Nature Center.
“He researched many different kinds of trees and had signs generated with scan-able QR codes that linked each sign to Leave-Snap, which is an educational botany website run by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.,” explained his mother, Caroline Girard.
“He also coordinated with other scouts to perform trial maintenance, making the trial safer for all hikers,” she said.
The requirements for earning the Eagle Scout rank, which is the highest rank within the Boy Scouts of America, is to complete a community service project. Matt said he needed an idea for one, so he contacted Scott Heth, Barnes Nature Center executive director.
“I asked ‘do you need any projects done?’ He gave me a list of different things and the one that caught my eye was a tree identification trail,” Matt said, noting it appealed to his interest in hiking and nature.
He described how he first walked the approximately mile-long trail to scope it out, then took a few months to plan how to get the signs made for each tree species and where to put them. “Then to actually execute the project took just a day,” he said.
“He did an excellent job, in looking for a need at the Barnes Nature Center and then in coming up with easy ways for people to learn more about the natural world,” Heth said.
In addition to the tree identification trail, Matt also came up with digital trail maps linked to the nature center’s website, Heth said. “People can go out to the trailhead, scan those QR codes, and have the trail map right on their phones. It has been really great for visitors, and we don’t have to hand out paper maps, so we’re conserving along those lines as well.”
Matt finished his work at the nature center in September of 2015, but then he needed to document it and submit the information to the Boy Scouts national organization, and also complete work on some merit badges and a few other details.
He recently had his court of honor, where he officially received the Eagle Scout rank, at Asbury United Methodist Church.
Matt said he has heard the nature center has received a lot of positive feedback on the new trail, which made him very happy.
A junior at Bristol Eastern High School, Matt also plays trumpet in the school band and made it to northern regional honor band sponsored by the Connecticut Music Educator Association two years in a row.
Matt said a number of people helped him complete his project, including his father, John Girard Jr.; adult troop leaders, Jim Schrager, Jacob Humerick and Doug Humerick; and Nicholas Jones, Mason Poirier, Jarred Karal, Alec Karal, Colin Hagan, Daniel Rosborg, Mitchell Rosborg and Alex Vertefeuille.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.