Faces of Conservation

Mat Vann was scouting out an opportunity to make a difference when the Conservancy came to call.

After several years of restoring former loblolly pine plantation to native coastal forest, the Conservancy began looking towards opening its system of hiking trails at the Pemberton Forest Preserve’s Ponders Tract. The Delaware chapter’s stewardship staff thought local Boy Scout troops might be able to help. As luck would have it, Mat Vann was looking for a chance to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.

The project Mat took on involved creating benches for the Ponders Trail System. He took the responsibility seriously, beginning with a design.

“I researched designs on the Internet and then created something that would fit my budget as well as meet the Conservancy’s approval,” says Vann.

The designs impressed John Graham, the Delaware chapter’s Land Steward, “These weren’t simple pencil drawings,” says Graham. “They were drawn to scale and from several angles. It was blueprint quality.”

With designs in place, Mat set out to secure donations for materials from Lowes, Home Depot and Wyoming Millworks. After that, he rallied his fellow scouts from Boy Scout Troop 903 in Dover to build the benches. Not one to miss a detail, Mat also coordinated a picnic lunch – made possible through additional donations – as a thank you for his hard working troop.

The final step in the process involved delivering seven benches to Ponders, which Mat accomplished with a tractor trailer soon after construction. Each bench reached its final destination with direction from John Graham and help from the chapter’s John Deer Gator, trailer and a power auger.

“Other than the use of our equipment, Mat ran the entire show,” adds Graham. “And typical of Boy Scouts, things were left clean as a whistle at the end of the day. The benches are getting a lot of use now that the preserve is open to the public.”


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