McCandless resident installs bat houses as part of Eagle Scout requirements

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Dusty Peters has been a member of Boy Scout Troop 335 for almost seven years and recently earned Eagle Scout status, the Boy Scouts of America organization's top rank.

The McCandless resident was recognized at an Eagle Scout court of honor earlier this month.

Peters, 17, who just finished his junior year at North Allegheny Senior High School, said he pursued the rank to help contribute to the community.

“It's a responsibility really to help other people and to help be a good example,” Peters said.

To become an Eagle Scout, a Boy Scout must complete requirements that include a community-service project. Peters installed bat houses in November in North Park to serve as a habitat for the animal.

The bat houses could increase the bat population which would, in turn, lower the number of insects and ultimately lead to less use of pesticides, Peters said.

“I wanted to do something to help animals and the environment,” he said.

Peters had to plan the project, raise money for materials and lead others who assisted him.

He said the most challenging part was learning to effectively communicate and make plans with community members. He had to work with North Park representatives to get approval for the project and had to contact local businesses to obtain materials for and space to build the bat houses.

“I learned leadership skills and interacting with people,” Peters said.

Peters' Scoutmaster, Andy Mesaros, said Peters grew in that area. “He's (now) just as engaging as a person can be. This experience has given him such confidence,” Mesaros said.

Eagle Scout candidates also must progress through five ranks prior to Eagle and earn 21 merit badges. Mesaros said this is difficult and nationally, only 2 percent achieve the rank. Troop 335 has a much higher percentage, however, with six to eight per year, he said.

The bat houses can be seen from the road around Marshall Lake in North Park.

It took two days for Peters and other troop members to construct four of them. They were placed on old telephone poles about 25 feet high, Peters said.

He obtained help from the Highland Volunteer Fire Department, of which Mesaros is a member. The fire chief allowed the use of a bucket truck to hoist the bat houses.

Peters said he also appreciated the help of Woodland Wood Products of Etna, which gave him space to build the houses. Starr Lumber of Valencia and a local Lowe's store also supported the project.

Peters said a single bat house will hold 200 to 300 brown bats, which are the size of a thumb. One bat can eat 2,000 to 6,000 insects in one night. This greatly reduces the cost of pesticides needed by farmers and helps the environment, Peters said.

He is the son of Chris and Theresa Peters, and his older brother, Ben, also is an Eagle Scout.

Being an Eagle Scout can be a plus on college and job applications, said Mesaros, of McCandless, because it indicates a person works hard and has leadership qualities.

“I think folks recognize it as an accomplishment,” Mesaros said.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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