Scouts Explore Department Lands

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 21, 2010

cave, entrance and our campsite. Our way back to dry clothes and lunch was blocked by the creek that went from ankle deep water to chest deep water in three hours.

The Scouts plotted a course west with map and compass, and we took a 2-mile hike overland to a county road on the opposite end of the conservation area. Local residents gave us a ride back to our campsite. We had missed lunch, but the Scouts were resourceful and skipped to the next meal, dinner. The Conservation Department operates nature centers in St. Louis, Blue Springs, Springfield and Jefferson City. The nature center staff will help with merit badge requirements for most of the ecology badges, such as mammal study, environmental science, forestry, and soil and water conservation. Scout leaders can call nature center naturalists for assistance with merit badge requirements.

Scout troops can borrow Conservation Department videos and films on a variety of nature related topics from nature centers, regional service center offices or many public libraries, or order videos by mail, telephone or fax. These materials are useful in completing ecology merit badges during weekly Scout meetings.

Boy Scouts can develop skills for the rifle shooting and shotgun shooting merit badges at Conservation Department facilities. There are shooting ranges with staff on duty during the day and evenings in the St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield vicinities. These ranges have a limited number of firearms that Scout groups can use. In addition, there are other shooting ranges throughout the state without permanent staff that are available to Scout groups.

To earn Scouting's highest rank, the Eagle, boys must complete a service project with a long-lasting benefit to the community. Eagle Scout candidates must plan and begin the project with help from their troop. Scouts can develop Eagle projects on Conservation Department lands and facilities in cooperation with local management staff.

Boy Scout Eagle candidates constructed bird viewing blinds, a hiking trail, benches along trails and around lakes, bat houses and disabled accessible picnic tables on the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles County. Another Eagle project was a leaf and twig collection and display cases to help Busch area naturalist teach tree identification to other Scouts and school groups.

An Eagle Scout completed a giant Canada goose restoration project on the Fountain Grove Conservation Area, Linn County. This project involved capturing flightless geese, constructing nesting structures at a new site and transporting captured geese. Eagle Scout candidates and conservation area personnel can explore options together to develop a project that will benefit fish and wildlife plus provide an exciting learning experience for the Scout. Our Boy Scout troop makes five to six trips annually to Conservation Department areas. Every year one of the most memorable to Scouts and leaders alike is a sailing excursion to Thomas Hill Conservation Area near Moberly. Most Boy Scouts in the Midwest do not have the opportunity to learn to sail. The 4,950-acre Thomas Hill Reservoir is well suited for sailing because the topography allows the wind to blow across the lake's entire length.

Our first sailing trip to Thomas Hill Conservation Area was an event neither I nor the Scouts will ever forget. After a few short sailing lessons, the boys felt that they had learned everything about sailing and were ready to try it alone. Four Scouts and myself were out on the lake learning to sail the boat parallel to the wind when I noticed a storm front moving across the lake. As the wind began to increase, I gave the command to turn the boat into the wind to reduce the pressure on the sails. Unfortunately, the Scout at the helm turned in the opposite direction. The boat heeled up on its side and I was flipped out. I can remember thinking, as I bobbed around in the lake, that they finally got their wish to sail alone.

For the next ten minutes, those four boys had a memorable sailboat ride as the wind doubled in strength. Finally, the wind blew the boat up on the shore. The Scouts and other spectators assembled on the shore to watch me swim back. It took the entire troop of Scouts plus several other volunteers to lift the sailboat up and set it back in the water. Nobody has ever asked me to sail alone again.

The Thomas Hill Conservation Area and other conservation areas offer a wide range of unique experiences for Scouts throughout Missouri. Scout leaders should contact the nearest Conservation Department office for more information on outdoor recreational opportunities.

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