Visual and educational information about butterflies and the Back Bay will now be easier than ever for visitors to the Muth Interpretive Center, thanks to Alex Conte and his fellow scouts in Troop 90.
As Conte’s Eagle Scout project, he planned, designed, funded and constructed three new informational and visual stations in the butterfly habitat at the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center in the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.
A total of 25 boy scouts and 11 adults volunteered to help with the project over the weekend, starting on Friday and were complete by Sunday afternoon. Conte, 13, oversaw and managed the entire project.
“[The stations will be] important educational [tools] for kids,” Alex Conte said. “These stations will be a great addition to the educational and informational process of the Upper Back Bay Nature Preserve.”
On top of the three stations, the troop cleared the area of weeds and dead brush, replanted vegetation, and laid pathways.
The stations were constructed with materials that can withstand the elements, are esthetically pleasing and conscious to the environment.
“This wonderful nature preserve, right here, is important,” Alex Conte said. “It’s important that we preserve it and get people out here so they can enjoy it.”
The back bay is a great form of outdoor entertainment, Alex Conte said.
The Conte family used to live across the street from that area of the back bay, so it holds a special place in their hearts.
“He grew up here,” Nicole Conte said about her son. “This is our backyard. This is where we play… It’s just beautiful to come out here. So it was perfect for him.”
It’s important to Alex, she added, so it was only natural for him to choose the Back Bay for his Eagle project.
“First (step) is finding a project and where there is a need in the community,” Nicole Conte said.
He worked with Sue Stoffel, Resource Specialist of North Coastal Operations for OC Parks, at the Muth Interpretive Center. She expressed the need for the stations in the butterfly habitat, Alex Conte said, so he went to work.
The stations will have information about the back bay, environment and butterflies, and more, Alex Conte said. They will also include pamphlets for visitors to take with them, he added.
Ranger Portia also helped the boys in the project.
It’s quite a process to find, develop, organize and carry out a project. Alex Conte has been working on his since last June. He has had to write up descriptions and cost sheets, fill out log sheets, sketch out drafts, find donors, figure out project details, get approvals, organize work teams, and, of course, construct and install the actual stations. He’s not done either, he still has to write up a summary and go before the board and present the entire project.
Safety is always the number one priority and Alex Conte made sure there was safety equipment, first aid and emergency instructions handy on-site.
Also on-site was a poster board thanking all the donors Alex personally contact to help with project. Donations came from individuals and companies, including the lab, The Pizza Bakery, The Camp, Ganahl Lumber, Troop 90, and the Levenson, Rob Conte, Brandon, Kenny & Nyna Goldberg, Berman, James Conte, Latino, Sharon Kaufman, Burrell, Harrington, Bob & Julie Conte, Diemert, and Rob Hendrix, families.
The owner of The Pizza Bakery, John Craft, is often a big supporter of Troop 90 Eagle Projects, Nicole Conte added.
Other Eagle Scout projects from the current and past years include installing flag poles, benches, fencing, buildings, landscape renovations, maintenance, and many others. They help out the community through work with churches, non-profit organizations, schools, and other groups. Most of Troop 90 Eagle Scout projects give about 300 hours.
“It’s about giving back to the community,” said fellow Troop 90 scout, Cooper Hendrix, 14, who finished his Eagle Scout project last year. Hendrix put up ecologically-friendly fencing at Crystal Cove State Park.
“A lot of it’s based on service and responsibility,” said Troop 90 scout dad Jimmy Doyle.
It’s also about helping each other out, Doyle added.
Alex is a great kid, Doyle said, he has put in a lot of work for other boys’ projects, he said, and so a lot of the boys are happy to help him out with his.
They learn a lot of valuable skills, said another volunteer dad, Gary Roudebush.
All the scout masters and leaders are all volunteers, Nicole Conte said, volunteering to help the boys and the community, she added.
“My hope is that he continues to give back to the community,” James Conte said about his son. “That’s important, in his journey in life, that if he can take anything away, it’s that it’s not just about him, the community is so much larger than himself and he can just spend some time giving back.”
“It’s great to see these young men grow and become important to their community,” he added.
The scouts really prepare the boys for the future, Nicole Conte said, and the eagle project is just one example of what the scouts are all about.
“These are boys who are being trained to be productive leaders in society, and it starts with the local community,” Nicole Conte said. “These boys are amazing.”