An Eagle’s Eye

A young man in a Scout uniform stood by the fence at the bottom of the hill alongside YSI in Alum Rock Park. Obviously at ease, he greeted the six members of YSI’s program committee. As they stood around a picnic table, he explained his plans for building a retaining wall, one that would be topped by a fence that would enclose aviaries used for the hawks and owls that make YSI their home.

Sometime during the last sixteen years Justin Coté, a Santa Theresa High School junior, has acquired more skills and interests than many people twice his age. Justin is hoping to become an Eagle Scout like his father and brother before him. One of the requirements is undertaking and completing a project that demonstrates planning and leadership skills. Justin had contacted YSI seeking such a project.

In wet years the slope to the east of YSI becomes a super highway for mud&mdash:mud that comes from a catch basin up the hill, part of the complex geology of this canyon park. The mud flows down the hill, often taking out the fence that protects the YSI building and its grounds. YSI has long planned to extend the retaining wall at the base of the slope in such a way that it takes the brunt of the mudflow and to relocate the fence to the top of the new wall. The area behind will be filled in to make it level and provide space for new aviaries, an ambitious project.

Justin was looking for a project that involved building something. There certainly were enough complexities in here to fill the bill.

With a wisdom many of us long for, Justin decided to take on only a part of the project, a manageable task that could be done in time to achieve the Eagle award, an award given only before a Scout turns eighteen. His plan is to build the first section of the new retaining wall and to do it before this year’s rains take out the fence again.

Not one to ignore the experience of others, Justin saw his brother procrastinate on his Eagle project so long that he barely finished it in time for his eighteenth birthday. If, somehow, this project turns out to be more complex than first imagined&mdash:and it may&mdash:Justin will have enough time to reassess the situation and come up with a new plan.

Justin demonstrated clearly that he had done his homework. After seeking advice from several contractors, he has the project divided into three parts. He has obtained donated construction materials and recruited a volunteer work crew. As he spoke he pointed out various aspects of the site where he anticipates there might be problems and described alternatives for solving these problems. After deftly fielding questions, he went quietly to work marking the ground where the trench for the footing will be.

The Youth Science Institute at Alum Rock Park, now has five hawks and three owls; it may soon have an Eagle.