By KATIE SOBKO
KEYPORT — A Troop 364 Boy Scout and other volunteers built a pair of rain gardens this summer on the front lawn of Keyport Central School.
The scout, 17-year-old borough resident Ethan Rice, completed the project as part of the requirements to earn Eagle Scout.
Rice chose to build the gardens after discussing other ideas with Ed Carew, one of the volunteers and a member of the Garden Club.
“He thought maybe rain barrels at the library would be a good idea,” said Rice. “Then we came across this idea and liked it.”
Rain gardens are a landscaping feature, typically planted with native shrubs and flowers, gaining popularity as a means of handling drainage on private property and controlling pollution in watersheds caused by runoff.
“They filter the water to treat it and allow it to slowly seep and circulate back into the ground,” said Christopher Obropta, a specialist for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources. “These gardens act as interceptors. It cleans the water and instead of just washing into the bay, it seeps back out and comes through the ground.”
After planning the logistics of the gardens, work began July 31 and was completed by mid-August, during time which Rice had the help of volunteers.
“My troop helped and some friends and mostly from the troop it was adults,” he said.
Rice still has to finish a few things such as removing the fencing and replace one of the plants.
He used 11 plants including the lowbush blueberry, switchgrass and the oak leaf hydrangea to create the garden.
Rice, who started scouting at the cub scout level, met with school officials including Superintendent Lisa Savoia about completing the rain gardens as his Eagle Scout project.
They were receptive to the idea especially due to the fact that the district is a member of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program.
That program is for schools in the state that want to work toward going green and conserving resources.
“Ethan is a strong young man and we were happy to assist him,” Savoia said. “We are pleased with supporting Ethan and the rain garden.“
Only five percent of all boy scouts reach the rank of Eagle according to the National Eagle Scout Association.
Those vying for the rank must prove that they live a life in accordance with the Scout Oath and the Scout Law as well as display leadership skills within their community.
Rice’s efforts with this project helped him to demonstrate these principles.
“It taught me a lot and showed my leadership ability,” he said. “I was able to run a project completely. I did all of the training for this and had the knowledge to serve as leader with everyone that worked on this.”
This project will be beneficial to the community both right now and long term.
“It is natural and beautiful,” Obropta said. “They will clean the water and make the environment better. It can create a habitat for endangered bees and food for birds. It can be treated as a living ecosystem.”