Sunday, February 27, 2011

We thought we where doing the right thing

How the Boy scouts of America thought they were doing good
When they really helped to create an environmental nightmare?

By Nick Markowitz Jr.
When I was a scout in the mid 1970’s there was a big environmental initiative with in Scouting called S.O.A.R. Save our American Resources and as part of the Silver Tip district my dad 2 brothers plus my self and aprox 250 other scouts in the Silver Tip District of Allegheny Trails Council were involved in several projects which helped to save local fishing streams . One stream was Bull Run Creek in Tarentum Pa. where we cleared debris and installed diverters to help the fish propagate . A different project which everyone wants to conveniently go away from memory occurred in Hampton Township and Allison Park Pa. along the Pine Creek which was suffering from heavy erosion to its steep banks. The Allison Park Fishing Assoc. along with a couple of Pa. Fish Commission Officers decided to try and save the creek bed which has been a favorite of trout fisherman for many decades.
It starts at North Park Lake and eventually winds it way down to Etna Pa. where it dumps into the Allegheny River which then flows into the Ohio River.
The plan to stop the erosion was to install several walls of used tires along the banks and then fill the tires with heavy rocks. One of the largest walls was behind the old swimming pool near the dam where aprox 1500 old tires were used. A weekend camporee where everyone camped in a section of North Park was arranged and over 500 people showed up to help including a Navy Reserve Construction Battalion also known as CB’s with heavy equiptment for the larger wall project a local contractor also supplied large Tri Axle trucks to help pick up and transport the tires to different sites. This was seen as a win win situation the discarded tires where being used to help protect the environment or so it was thought so back then . But one thing was never considered tires float and eventually these walls would fall apart and become a bigger problem no one ever consulted a soils or stream engineer who would have told them this was a bad idea despite the fact they looked solidly built ,and this is exactly what happened when a terrible storm spun off by Hurricane Ivan came to visit Western Pa. in 2004 when 4 inches of rain was dumped into Pine Creek and the tire walls already deteriorated after 35 years of constant abuse from the annual spring flooding let loose and thousands of tires clogged the creek bed which resulted in several miles of the creek bed flooding over and causing millions of dollars in damage .Local TV news coverage showed all the damage from the tires which accumulated in the creek bed .But despite all the news coverage and damage no one ever inquired as to how the disaster happened. Probably because they realized many big name organizations including the BSA would get hurt. As well as the very state agency responsible for protecting the stream allowing it to happen.
Much has been learned from this but of course many want to forget it ever happened.
Either way a lot of questions should have been asked and answered before it was allowed to be commenced and it was not. 5 years later damage is still being corrected .
It makes me sick to think the boy scouts got involved because one of the scoutmasters was a fish commission officer and no one asked any questions about it. Before starting
This is just one of many situations the BSA has allowed its self to get into and brought shame to the organization and will not be the last.

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