Aspen Cub Scout Pack 224 strives to follow the Scout principle of having fun with a purpose. On Saturday at the Maroon Bells, a group of 25 scouts, parents and U.S. Forest Service employees worked together to plant more than two dozen trees at the Silver Bar Campground as part of a community-service project.
The trees will provide more seclusion between sites and helped to revegetate areas where potential erosion problems were becoming evident.
Pack 24 Leader Greg Balko likes win-win situations and found a double winner with the undertaking his pack developed.
“This project helps our community while serving as a fundraiser for our pack,” Balko said. “We’re also helping the Forest Service provide a better camping experience by adding a level of privacy between sites with the trees.”
The purpose was fulfilled, but did the Scouts have fun? Absolutely, Balko said.
“Our Scouts are actually enjoying the digging,” he said. “They’re working hard and having a great time using the shovels and picks.”
The Scouts, mostly third- and fourth-graders, dug the holes for the trees and helped remove large rocks from the planting areas. They worked with enthusiasm and obviously enjoyed tossing the larger rocks into Maroon Creek, which runs next to the campsite.
“I really like this project,” said 9-year-old Scout Peter de Wetter. “You get to hang out with your friends and help the environment. Someday I’ll show people these trees and can say I helped plant them.”
Pack 224 worked out a deal with Colorado Tree Ranch in Basalt to buy spruce and aspen trees at cost.
The Scouts sold the trees to the public, which then donated the trees to be used in the Maroon Bells project. Those who donated trees will receive a picture of the trees being planted and the location of their tree so they can visit and see it in the future.
Balko said each tree earned his pack about $160 for a total of $4,100 to help fund Scout projects.
“We’re hoping to use the money we raised to build a Pinewood Derby racetrack in Aspen,” Balko said. “We’ve been using the track in Basalt but want our own closer to home.”
Balko said the Forest Service has already indicated that it would like the Scouts to continue this project in the future.
On Saturday, Pack 224 planted 27 trees at the Silver Bar Campground, located across from the Ranger Station where visitors pay to access the Bells.
Jennifer Belknap is a maintenance tech for the Forest Service at the Maroon Bells and drove the small bulldozer that transported the trees to their planting locations. She was delighted to see the Scouts helping make the campsite a better place to visit.
“We had a serious lack of screening at the Silver Bar campsite,” Belknap said. “These trees will help with the aesthetics and provide some much-needed privacy between sites. This is a great community project, especially with the Forest Service budget issues we’re dealing with. We didn’t necessarily have the money to do something like this. The Scouts are also learning to be stewards of the land.”
The scouts planted 30 trees at the nearby Silver Bell campsite last year with fantastic results. The trees they planted all took to their new environment and are healthy. They also provide the additional privacy between campsites the Forest Service was hoping for.
“Silver Bell campsite looks like a different campground now,” Belknap said. “You can already see the difference the trees we-re planting today will make.”