Eagle Scout project puts bat boxes in Downriver nature trail

Dave Gorgon

A love of nature led future Eagle Scout Sebastian Prunty to build bat boxes along the nature trails behind the senior center at Riverview’s Young Patriots Park.

A member of Boy Scout Troop 1795, Prunty guided the creation of the boxes, which provide shelter for bats, a species known to be in decline in the United States.

The project is one of the last steps before a Boy Scout can become an Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank in Scouting. Scoutmaster Kevin Bowlby of Wyandotte said Prunty is the 16th member of the troop to complete an Eagle project since he founded the troop in 2007 and the fifth in the last 12 months.

Prunty, a 17-year-old Riverview resident and a senior at Riverview Community High School, chose the bat boxes as his project after a conversation with Mayor Andrew Swift, who had several ideas for projects that would fill needs in the city.

“Since COVID-19 and the restrictions on places to go with groups, my friends and I started hanging out at the Southgate and Riverview nature trails,” Prunty said. “The bat boxes the Mayor suggested seemed to fit in with my love of nature and will help bring bats, who not only help naturally control the insect population, but help pollinate plants and scatter seeds.”

Prunty’s mother Tonya Smith is advancement coordinator and assistant scoutmaster in the troop. She said an Eagle Scout project leader must come up with specifications and dimensions for the project, seek volunteers to help, assign tasks and guide the way.

Other Scouts and volunteers performed such tasks as cutting wood for the boxes, waterproofing, woodburning the name of the troop and “scoring” the wood, which creates deep grooves from which the bats can cling, followed by nailing the boxes into the trees.

Smith said Scouts and other volunteers followed COVID-19 protocol, including wearing masks and having their temperatures taken before participating in the work. She said Sebastian provided tables and hand sanitizer and assigned tools to the helpers.

“We’ve got a great troop,” Smith said. “They always help each other out.”

The effort impressed Mayor Swift, who said, “Sebastian did a great job getting this Eagle project done with all the obstacles that COVID has thrown in his way.”

The Riverview Parks and Recreation Department signed off on the project.

Smith and her family moved to Riverview about five years ago from Elkridge, Maryland, where Sebastian was heavily involved since the fifth grade in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and heavily involved in his youth group at St. Augustine Catholic Church.

Smith called her son “a great kid.” She said he helps out around the house and aids his grandmother, who is disabled. Besides school, he works full time at Tim Horton’s at Allen Road near Goddard in Taylor.

Prunty made a smooth transition to Scouting in Michigan. Smith said he was looking for a troop that was active outdoors and he hit the ground running with Troop 1795, which is based in Southgate and includes 32 boys from all over the Downriver area and even into Dearborn.

“Our troop focuses on learning through fun,” said Scoutmaster Bowlby, who is an engineer with the Ford Motor Co. “We camp constantly – every month, 12 months a year, every year until COVID messed it up. The boys like that they are getting outside.”

Prunty said he enjoys the variety of things to do in Boy Scouts.

“One week, you’re camping in a tent deep in the woods and the next you’re flying in a single-engine plane as you work on your Aviation Merit Badge,” he said. “Scout(ing) gives you the chance to get a taste of things you might not be able to in school or other extracurricular activities. I’ve been able to learn to shoot a rifle, build an instrument, learn about geology and become better at chess, and I get to decide if it’s something I’d like to pursue further.”

Bowlby said: “Sebastian is a natural leader. The other Scouts just naturally flock to him. If he decides we need to go on a hike, 20 people line up to go on a hike. If he decides he wants to play a game, everybody plays a game.”

“Working on rank advancements and merit badges has taught me discipline and how to finish what I’ve started,” Prunty said. 

“It’s also taught me leadership skills and how to mentor and teach others. It’s taught me to not only work alone on what you want to accomplish, but that you have to also work as a team at times. I think all of this will help with any future goals I have.”

Younger brother Reese, now 13, also is active in Scouts. He is beginning to work toward his Eagle rank. Reese, Sebastian and even their mother are members of the Order of the Arrow, which is the National Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America. It consists of members who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives as elected by their peers.

For more information on Boy Scout Troop 1795, send an email to Scoutmaster Bowlby at scoutmaster1795@yahoo.com.

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