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Parent picks Asian Longhorned beetle for Eagle Scout badge bid

Parent picks Asian Longhorned beetle for Eagle Scout badge bid andrewparent_eagleproject.jpg
April 19, 2010 By Debbie Gardner Assistant Managing Editor SPRINGFIELD -- 16 Acres native Andrew Parent didn't want to choose the traditional canned good, clothing or book drive to fulfill his Eagle Scout merit badge service requirement. He wanted to create a project that would both stretch his leadership skills and benefit the community. His choice: a survey that would examine local trees for signs of the Asian Longhorned Beetle, an invasive insect that has already destroyed thousands of hardwood trees in Worcester and West Boylston, Mass. "An Eagle Scout project can't benefit a for-profit agency, or your church or your school," Parent explained to Reminder Publications. "I decided to do something for the entire 16 Acres neighborhood." United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Agent David Bloniarz said Parent, an 11th grader at Sabis International Charter School in 16 Acres, learned about the beetle at a forestry workshop last summer. Bloniarz added that he originally met Parent through work he's done with Sabis on a variety of neighborhood forestry projects. The two started talking about the beetle as Parent's Eagle Scout project last fall. "Andrew thought it would be cool if he could lead a project on this [beetle] and bring it down to the grass roots and have citizens look for signs and symptoms of the beetle," Bloniarz said.

Parent began his project by leading a workshop on beetle identification for friends, Sabis baseball teammates and fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 303 at St. Catherine's Church on March 28. He said about 10 people attended. "Dave and I led the talk and presented a slide show on the most important signs [of infestation]," Parent said. These 10 people became Parent's crew leaders for the actual survey, which was planned for early April. With the help of Michael Tully, senior parks project manager for the city's Parks Department, Parent said he was able to secure street maps that identified the suspect trees, such as Maples, along each street in 16 Acres.

On April 10 Parent, his crew leaders and about 40 volunteers set out maps, information packets and field glasses in hand to check the neighborhood's trees. According to Bloniarz, the survey area covered approximately seven miles of roads. "The maps showed a bird's eye view of the area with a red dot for each [hardwood] tree on each street," Parent said. His crews provided inquisitive neighbors with information about the Asian Longhorned beetle and explained why they were visually inspecting trees. At the end of the day the neighborhood was deemed mostly infestation-free. "He had two sites that I went and looked at," Bloniarz said. "One wasn't Asian Longhorned. One I'm going to have the state Department of Agriculture look at." Bloniarz called the Asian Longhorned beetle a "genuine threat" that could "devastate the entire urban tree canopy" if it were to infest trees in the 16 Acres area. He praised the work of Parent and his crew for their proactive approach to controlling this insect threat.