Early Saturday morning at Roberts Field, Chelmsford Boy Scouts from Troop 81 were busy cutting and pulling vines from trees, as they kicked off their Conservation Project to remove the invasive plants from the natural areas of the Park. This morning Scouts were targeting Oriental bittersweet, a particularly damaging invasive plant to trees that grows and climbs into the tree canopy, crowding and choking out tree growth, and raining down scores of berries and seeds to the forest floor to dramatically spread the plants’ creep.
Before starting work on the Conservation Project, the Scouts met with Wetlands Scientist Cori Rose to learn about the damage invasive plants can cause, how to identify them, and the best methods for their removal. Rose’s presentation included a hands-on lesson about invasive plant identification at the Park, and warnings about onsite plants to avoid like Poison ivy and Wild mustard, whose orange sap can cause skin blisters and irritation. After the presentation, Damien Gould, Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 81, led the Scouts to three hard hit areas of the Park, where invasive plants had been marked by Friends of Roberts Field Volunteers earlier in the week. Gould said that Troop 81 took on the project “because invasive species are destroying the Park’s natural environment, and it’s important to make sure that this environment can last.”
Following the day’s work, the Scouts pitched tents and set up a campsite to stay overnight at the Park, providing them an opportunity to earn their camping merit badges. Adult Scout Leaders, including Troop 81 Scoutmaster Kirby Nichols, supported the Scouts by delivering the Troop’s trailer of camping supplies and food. While preparing grilled cheese sandwiches for the Troop’s lunch, Scoutmaster Nichols said that the Conservation Project and overnight stay at the Park was a good opportunity for the Scouts to work as a team and build camaraderie, while being in such a close and familiar location.
Chelmsford Boy Scout Troop 81 was established in 1976, and has a long history of successful service projects in the community including many Eagle Projects. Senior Patrol Leader Gould said that he had been a Scout since first grade and especially enjoyed these types of scouting activities. Gould encouraged those interested in joining Boy Scouts to visit a Troop 81 meeting at Aldersgate Methodist Church, 242 Boston Road in Chelmsford any Wednesday during the spring, fall, and winter between 7:15-8:45 PM, or to visit www.bsatroop81.org for more information.
Troop 81 became aware of the need for the invasive removal project after seeing a Chelmsford Telemedia TV bulletin board message asking for Volunteers to take on the project. The project message was posted by the Friends of Roberts Field, a Volunteer organization committed to improving the neighborhood park. The invasive removal project is part of the group’s Habitat and Trail Maintenance Plan that was enacted with the Town of Chelmsford to improve the natural areas of the Park.