Plant City’s oldest Boy Scout troop has something remarkable to brag about this year.
Eight scouts from the troop have reached the coveted Eagle Scout rank since January by completing community service projects.
Count among them Plant City High School seniors Chase Dunn and Isaac Rivers, who on Nov. 9 completed Troop 5’s seventh and eighth such endeavors, at Alderman’s Ford and Edward Medard regional parks in eastern Hillsborough County, respectively.
As Dunn explained it, “an Eagle project has to be something that benefits the community, that’s relatively permanent and that takes a significant amount of time to plan and put into action.” It also has to be completed by the time a boy turns 18, which in Dunn’s case occurred Nov. 3.
Rivers hit the same milestone Nov. 23, two weeks after completing his Eagle Scout project at Edward Medard off Turkey Creek Road, with the installation of poles for bat boxes supplied by Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation officials.
“People go to the park, they like hanging out, they like to camp, and they don’t want to be bothered by insects,” Rivers said. “With more bats around to eat the mosquitoes, more people can better enjoy their time there.”
As for Dunn, his project clearly is visible to visitors entering the “blue” part of Alderman’s Ford Park, on the west side of County Road 39 in Lithia. It’s considered the public launch area for bring-your-own canoeists. On the east side of County Road 39, red entrance signs designate the park’s main picnic area, where canoe rentals are available.
It’s always been a bit of a struggle to find the entranceway to the “blue” side of the park. Not anymore, said Bryan Hughes, Alderman’s Ford’s senior park manager, who gave high marks to Dunn’s project.
It entails reconstituted canoes perched on recycled telephone poles planted into a colorful mix of plants on either side of the park’s entrance, at Canoe Launch and Thompson Road, just east of County Road 39. On each canoe, in white letters, the words “Alderman’s Ford Park” is clearly noted. Brown paddles with the words “Canoe Launch” hang below.
“It gives that pop, that little bit of flair, to give people notice as to where to turn in,” Hughes said. “I love it. I love scout projects and I hope to get more.”
Also completing Eagle Scout projects this year for Troop 5 were Durant High School student Christopher Tice and Plant City High students Jake Fortune, Alan Gambrell, Randall Platt and Chris and Spencer Tatum. Eagle Scout is scouting’s highest rank.
“It’s really unusual to have this many Eagle Scout projects in one troop in one year,” said Chase Dunn’s mother, Stacy. “But they’ve all been helping each other complete their projects. It is a team effort.”
The 82-year-old troop meets weekly at the Norman McLeod American Legion Post 26, 2207 W. Baker St. As one of the nation’s oldest troops, it’s also an achievement for Troop 5 that so many of its members have stuck together since entering the scouts as cubs.
“About 16 of them started together in the first grade and about 11 of them are still going,” said Chase Dunn’s father, Jeff. With eight Eagle Scout projects conceived and completed, “It’s really kind of cool to know it’s coming to an end, to know that we’ve completed a journey together,” he added.
For some of the boys the journey might continue, as it has for assistant scout master Rob Yoho, a 1984 Plant City High graduate, who in his youth also was a member of Troop 5.
As for Troop 5 Scout Master Mark Hamilton, he said his wife urged him to get involved when his son was in the first grade “and I’ve been doing it ever since.” His son, Casey, a student at the University of Central Florida, graduated from Plant City High in 2012. His Eagle Scout project involved a food drive for the United Food Bank of Plant City.
As a scout master, “You see how much they’ve grown and matured through the years and how they learned the values of the scout oath and law,” Hamilton said. “That’s the rewarding side of being a scout leader.”