Eagle Scout from Pine soars toward national award

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:07 p.m.

After John Barczynski earned his Eagle Scout award at 15, he knew he wanted to continue to be involved in Boy Scouting and took on a project few Scouts attempt.

Barczynski, an Eagle Scout in Troop 81, based at Perry Highway Lutheran Church in Pine, is a candidate for the William T. Hornaday Award Silver Medal and currently is awaiting approval by the National Council of Boy Scouts of America review committee.

The award was created to recognize Scouts who have made significant contributions to conservation, with only 1,100 medals awarded over the past 80 years, according to the Boy Scouts of America.

“It is quite a large undertaking, and it's also not very well known, so between those two factors, not many Scouts pursue the Hornaday award,” said Bill Park, director of program of the Boy Scouts of America Laurel Highlands Council, in Pittsburgh.

Park said, in the last 20 years, only two other Hornaday awards have been granted to Scouts through the local office.

Barczynski, 17, of Franklin Park, completed the equivalent of four Eagle Scout projects to qualify for the Hornaday award — ranging from 250 to 550 hours each — at the Latodami Nature Center in North Park.

Barczynski said he was motivated by knowing there was a “genuine need” in the community and at the nature center from creating a long list of projects needed there with Latodami naturalist Meg Scanlon.

“I can definitely see there is a big need for volunteers at the nature center,” Barczynski said. “Now, I can come back and say, ‘I did that,' and see that you really can make a difference. … I proved to myself if you work hard, you really can make a difference and improve the situation.”

Barczynski worked at the nature center from fall of 2010 to the spring on 2013 on the series of four projects.

Barczynski and volunteers from the community and Troop 81 restored a wetland near the nature center barn that included removing invasive plant species and building a dam to help control the water in the wetland. Other projects included restoring the apple orchard on the property and planting apple trees that have connections to Johnny Appleseed. He also identified and inventoried ash trees on the nature center's property for use in combating the emerald ash borer that is plaguing the species.

Barczynski's final project was the installation of a rain garden to control storm water collected from the nature center's barn roof.

Scanlon said while she provided Barczynski with some idea of different types of projects needed at the nature center, he chose the ones that best suited his abilities and resources and then completed them “above and beyond my expectations.”

Barczynski's work created additional habitats for the wildlife around the nature center, as well as educational opportunities for visitors to the nature center.

“We rely solely on the generosity of the public,” Scanlon said. “Everything that happens here at the nature center is through service work and donations of people like John.

“Without them, there would be nothing special about (the nature center).”

Barczynski hopes to receivefinal approval for the Hornaday Silver Medal from the national review committee before the end of the year, but until then, he is proud of what he accomplished for the environment and the benefit of the community.

“I'm really happy I was able to see it to its completion,” he said. “It's really satisfying to see everything completed and to see those things, the rain garden, will be here long after I've gone off to college.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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