“The cleanup project was part of the Scouts’ ‘Leave No Trace (LNT)’ training, as well as a general concept of providing service to the community,” said Matt J. Lloyd, parent and Boy Scouts committee advancement chair.
Chartered by the O’Fallon’s First United Methodist Church and Kiwanis Club, the troop was sent on a camping trip June 1-4 to the Johnson Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks State Park, which was the first time they had gone.
“We were looking to go a little farther than home then we had in the past for a little bit more adventure,” Lloyd said. “The boys spent Friday (June 2) morning of the weekend cleaning up trash at Elephant Rocks.”
Breaking into multiple teams, the Scouts scoured the picnic areas, the vast trail network, and even in between the large rock formations to pull out a large amount of paper, bottles, cans, and other garbage.
“I was sad, because people were not treating the Earth with respect, but I am proud of my troop for doing such hard work to clean up,” Lex White, a first-time camper.
The next day the boys divided into two teams to clean up at Johnson’s Shut-Ins.
“One team pruned and cleared low hanging branches from the trail visitors use to get to the Black River. The other team set up a picket line and moved down a half mile stretch of the river and removed several bags full of trash, as well as tires, large pieces of metal and a large tarp,” Lloyd said.
Greg Giedeman, Boy Scouts committee outdoor activities chair and parent, said the a few of the older scouts had to complete 16 hours of training prior to the trip and teaching the younger scouts more about the LNT service project. Also, this year marks the start of some newly implemented number of service hours, as well as the element of conservation being required for every rank from scout to star.
“It teaches these scouts to tread lightly and be smarter on what to bring and what not to bring — what you pack in, you pack out,” Giedeman said.
Lloyd added, “They were struck by the amount of trash/junk they found and how easy it would have been for folks to just use the available receptacles. It also further builds the mindset and habits which they apply to every outdoor activity the boys participate in.”
First-time camper and first-year Boy Scout Liam Duncan said, “It made me kind of sad, because I thought more people would know better than to litter and leave their trash everywhere. It was fun though because we got to climb and swim while looking for trash, and those are some of my favorite things.”
Giedeman said the morale of the boys was “phenomenal.”
“When we walked out they were so tired, but they couldn’t wait to come back,” Giedeman said.
“As the Scouts were stacking the removed garbage, passing park visitors offered thanks and gratitude for the troop’s efforts,” he noted.
All the scouts earned the LNT awards for their efforts during the trip, which Lloyd said, “they can take great pride in leaving both places better than they found them. The Scouts know they made a difference, especially with all the people (tourists and Rangers) at both parks thanking them for cleaning up the river and park — folks were impressed a Scout troop from Illinois had come nearly three hours to clean their park in Missouri.”
Tommy Fulford, a Life Scout, and Josh McIntyre, a Star Scout, said visiting the state parks was a very meaningful and exciting new experience for our troop to take part in.
“We felt gratified, because we were helping our environment. But, we were also surprised and sad that people leave so much trash. Seeing the trash took away from the experience of nature. It was disappointing that in some instances there was a trash can nearby and people chose not to use it. It was fun picking up trash and helping clean up our environment. We would like to encourage others to do the same,” Tommy and Josh shared.
Boys also conducted a flag retirement ceremony. It was the first, or second for some, overnight tent campout for several of our newest scouts who got to set up, and then take down, their tents, set up the troop campsite. In addition they were required to cook their meals and receive training in the field from older scouts on basic scouting skills necessary to advance through the ranks and be ready for more challenging adventures, Lloyd explained.
Scouts: Sam Allard, Sam Becker, Connor Dougherty, Liam Duncan, Tony Fisk, Tommy Fulford, Sam Giedeman, William Haberl, Connor Lindsey, Andrew Martin, Josh McIntyre, Jacob Pekala, Eric Shackelford, Daniel Stellyes, Bradley Thomas, Alex Westfall, Jack Lloyd and Lex White.
Adult leaders: Todd Fisk, Greg Giedeman, Jeff Haberl, Brian Lindsey, Matt Lloyd, Josh Preston, Quin Preston and Greg Giedeman.