LAKE PARK – Nick Hawes has always loved Boy Scouts and environmental science. So when it came time for the 17-year-old Porter Ridge High School senior to start on his Eagle Scout project, combining Scouts and science felt natural.
Nick recently built and installed six sets of swallows’ nests at various locations throughout Lake Park. Each set consists of a 15-foot poll cemented into the ground supporting eight nests, and the sets are stationed at or around the lakes in the village. The nests will give the birds a safe, permanent place to make their homes over the years.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Chuckie, Nick enrolled in Cub Scouts in first grade. He says all of the experiences he’s enjoyed in Boy Scouts have been worthwhile, but his favorite aspects of the program have been outdoor adventures such as a weeklong scuba camp and hiking along the Appalachian Trail.
“(Boy Scouts) is a developing program,” he said. “It builds character and teaches a lot of skills that can be useful in pretty much all aspects of life.”
Nick, a member of Troop 151, which meets at Faith United Methodist Church, said settling on a project to earn his Eagle rank – the highest merit a Boy Scout can achieve – was “definitely a back-and-forth process.” After plans to build a patio for a picnic shelter fell through, Nick turned to his back-up plan: installing nests in Lake Park.
“I picked that one because it was a community thing and an environmental thing at the same time,” he said. “Life science and biology and earth science are a big focus of mine. In that aspect, I wanted to do something environmental.”
Nick hosted a yard sale to raise money for his project. He collected donations of items from fellow members of his church, Faith United Methodist, as well as his sister, who was moving to Charleston. The yard sale was a success, and Nick subsequently addressed Lake Park councilmembers to discuss the project.
“I met with them, and they agreed to it, and one of the councilmembers took me to different sites that could be a good location for (the nests),” Nick said.
Using his money and being mindful of his budget, Nick collected the items needed to build the nests – conduit pipes, cement and the nests, which he ordered online. Once the items were purchased, Nick and some of his friends began cutting and forging the pipes into 15-foot segments and putting together the nests.
Nick said it took about three weeks and the help of 12 to 15 volunteers to construct the sets and two additional workdays to dig holes, install the poles, cement them, bolt them and install small plaques bearing Nick’s name and his troop number at each site. The sets were installed near the lakes, Nick said, as the water attracts mosquitos – a source of food for the birds.
“We put them all by the lakes because swallows eat mosquitos,” he said, adding he hopes the birds will, in turn, help control the mosquito population in the area.
The hardest part of the project, Nick said, was the project’s design phase.
“I’d never built anything like this before,” he said. “I looked at the Internet to see common design.”
But with hard work comes reward, and Nick said his favorite part was finally installing the pipes and reflecting upon a job well done.
“It was really relieving to see them standing like they should’ve,” he said. “That was the best part because I was pretty happy and could see my achievement.”
Nick expects his formal Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony to take place in February. Now that he’s practically finished with Boy Scouts – he’ll turn 18 and age out of Scouts on April 12 – Nick is looking ahead to college, hoping to go to North Carolina State University or Clemson University to major in biomedical engineering.
Though completing his Eagle project was hard work, Nick said it’s something he would recommend to all fellow Scouts.
“I’ll definitely say that it’s a long process. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a worthwhile thing,” he said. “To be proud of what you did accomplish makes up for all the work and stress you went through trying to complete it.”